Those on social assistance who buy monthly bus passes in North Battleford will have to pay almost double for the service now.
The City of North Battleford increased the price of subsidized bus passes from $20 to $35 in the New Year.
According to Transit Manager Paul Robertson, his hand was forced in order to balance the budget. He said the change was to make up for $12,000 Social Services were no longer paying the city due to their own budget issues.
“At the beginning of the year they changed their policy to say they were just going to give us the money for the amount of tickets sold and the $12,000 wasn’t forthcoming,” Robertson said. “This left my budget $12,000 short. The demography of North Battleford doesn’t allow me a $12,000 increase in fares. The only way to make it up was to increase the prices.”
According to Robertson, in order to make up the $12,000, the city would have to sell an additional 600 passes at $20, which wasn’t feasible. He said the most the city has ever sold is 300.
Robertson said for 2017 the transit was in the black $900, which makes for a really tight budget.
“There’s no money in there to play around with. We need money to be able to give the service that we’ve got. None of this money goes elsewhere as we are a none-profit organization. As a businessman, if I could sell these passes for $60, why would I give them away for $20? Simple fact is we are obligated to subsidize passes for those who can’t afford it and I can understand that.”
Robertson added the city’s budget is tight as well and isn’t able to give the transit an additional $12,000 to make up the difference and keep prices the same. The manager said he understands the increase could be substantial to those who depended on the $20 pass, but the money had to be found somewhere.
“I didn’t make the increase without council’s approval. This was agreed by council that it’d be put up from $20 to $35. There’s nothing hidden anywhere. If we don’t make up the $12,000 then we can’t run the transit system.”
Robertson said any money left over goes into a reserve to purchase new buses.
According to Social Services the agreement they have with North Battleford is that people on social assistance receive at least a $25 discount on the cost of monthly bus passes. The city charges $60, so it is meeting the requirements.
Executive Director of Income Assistance Service Directory with Social Services Jeff Redekop said if anyone on social assistance can’t afford the increase to talk with their agent and they may be able to cover the costs.
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