CAT plans for 2021 budget amid coronavirus pandemic uncertainty

CAT plans for 2021 budget amid coronavirus pandemic uncertainty

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Chatham Area Transit got their first look at the 2021 budget Tuesday.

It’s a conservative estimate that they will be monitoring close as the COVID-19 impact is still realized.

Chatham Area Transit is looking at an operational budget of about $27,427,829, that’s a little more than they had last year. Officials say it’s a conservatively optimistic budget.

While their ridership is down about 45 percent from this time last year because of COVID-19 they are planning for July through next June and hope to see a return of business.

They planned their budget like they would normally, but will be watching it closely as they learn how COVID-19 impacts them. They have scheduled additional hearings quarterly to amend the budget as needed.

Of the proposed budget the biggest expenditures are fixed route service delivery costs and maintenance of buildings and their fleet, while they make most of their money through the transit tax.

CAT would be facing a deficient for the 2021 budget, but financial leaders with the organization made cuts to avoid that.

“Initially when the departments submitted their requests we had a deficient so this year we applied an across the board cut of 10% to general administration accounts and a 5% cut to materials and supplies,” explained Terri Harrison, CAT’s CFO, during their virtual meeting Tuesday. “This allows us to balance the budget . Our revenue streams do not cover all of the submitted expenditure requests so these cuts were necessary to balance the budget.”

This was CAT’s first reading of the budget, but they will have another public hearing on the issue set for June 10th with final adoption expected by the end of the month.

Leaders say the complete impact of the coronavirus pandemic is still unknown, but they are operating at 37% of their typical services. Budget leaders for the county transit authority say they do expect to see about 10.8 million dollars come in from the CARES Act, but that represents about five and a half months of their operation costs.

Copyright 2020 WTOC. All rights reserved.