BR Council says buses still roll, CATS budget still short
BATON ROGUE- A fare hike and route cut-backs were denied Wednesday night by the Metro Council. That means the transit system has to come up with ways on its own to fill a budget gap.
But riders were mostly ecstatic about the hold on services.
"I am so grateful that the ones that votes against it sees," said rider Debbie Marie.
Rider Allan Webb said, "CATS is important, I don't know anybody in this parish that can say CATS us not important to them."
CATS is in the hole more than a million dollars. It asked to increase the fare to $2 and cancel routes. The council said no for the people and to put a stop to practices of the past.
"Having been down this road for then years, it seems like every year the same thing comes up," said Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Walker.
Councilman Bones Addison said, "I don't think plugging that hole means continuing to cut off the services because we're cutting off our nose, my grandmother said, despite our face."
"This has gone on for 20 years, where previous councils have approved the recommendations that have come before them and it didn't give additional importance for anybody in the community to come up with a long-term solution," said Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards.
"I can't support that," said Councilman Trae Welch, "And I'm putting it back on you to come up with a solution before October for these people."
CATS will be broke and closed by October if it can't get money to fix this year's problem. But what council wants the system to do is find a solution for the future, not just a band-aid for today. CATS says that decision is a major risk and isn't a victory for anyone.
"It wasn't that the million dollars was mis-managed like maybe it was in the past," said CATS CEO Brian Marshall, "Here's a case where the money is just dried up so that makes it even more heartfelt, our challenge."
The city says while the pressure is on CATS' budget, the challenge is on everyone. The entire council, the mayor and even other cities in the parish say they'll keep working to help the system before its October deadline.
Some long-time council members tell News 2 the city-parish has spent about $20 million in the past 15 years helping CATS balance its budget.