No bus-fare hike included in CARTA budget
CARTA bus fares will not go up in its new budget scheduled for adoption today.
The transit agency’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Forecast costs to operate the bus service come in at $18.2 million, and revenues are listed as $20.7 million.
New expenses include more staff, increased advertising and higher fuel and maintenance costs.
A budget posted at the CARTA website shows an increase in administrative salaries and benefits from $700,000 to slightly more than $1 million.
CARTA expanded its staff to do work on an in-house basis that previously was done under contract by outside firms. In the long run, the move saves money, said spokeswoman Lindsey Barrett.
New staff include an accountant, advertising specialist and administrative assistant. CARTA also will hire a graphic artist, she said.
“They’ve already seen a huge increase in advertising. They really were just seriously understaffed,” Barrett said.
CARTA is spending big on radio, print and outdoor advertising in the new budget, to the tune of $116,000 compared with $32,900 for the same services in the current budget. It also is making a new $82,000 push for “ridership enhancement” and promotions.
CARTA has retired more than $3 million in debt in recent months, said Executive Director Christine Wilkinson.
“We have been working hard to upgrade our equipment, improve passenger amenities and advance new technologies,” she said in a letter to the board.
The major contributors to revenue growth in the new budget are the federal government and Charleston County. The feds will provide $6 million for CARTA in the form of an annual operating grant, which is a 24 percent increase over this year.
The county sales tax allocation will be $7.4 million, which is up 9 percent over the current budget.
The new budget includes $2.4 million for fuel and $12.5 million for the fixed-route buses, the heart of the CARTA operation. That represents an 18 percent increase in fuel costs and a 12 percent hike in fixed-route costs over the current budget year.
A vote on the budget will take place at the 1:30 p.m. today at the CARTA board meeting at the Lonnie Hamilton Public Service Building at 4045 Bridgeview Drive.