By JOSH NEWTON
Tahlequah city councilors continue to mull whether they will donate money to the Ki Bois Area Transit System this budget year.
Mayor Jason Nichols said the city has given KATS a donation for several years, but the amount has varied, and has increased to three times the amount the city gave the first time around. Last year, the city provided $35,000 to the system.
Councilors have considered this year’s request from KATS for months.
Nichols said the city has never budgeted for the expenditure, and typically takes the funds from a generic professional services account. This year, however, the account would be depleted if councilors chose that option. Nichols instead suggested the council take any funds given to KATS from operating reserve.
Ward 4 Councilor Linda Spyres suggested Monday that the city table the request until the 2013-’14 budget year.
“That is entirely acceptable to me,” Nichols said. “The only issue is that KATS will end up making the point that we are effectively denying them a donation for one year, or we’ll pay twice next year. We won’t have paid in the fiscal year 2012-’13, and we won’t pay until ‘13-’14. I’m not advocating either way, just know that that will be, in effect, what we’ve done.”
Ward 2 Councilor Jack Spears and Ward 1 Councilor Diane Weston both said they worry about pulling all funding from KATS for the budget year.
“I think it’s very important that we have a good relationship with them,” said Spears. “That is really a service to this community.”
Weston agreed, and said many people rely solely on KATS to get around. But she also wants more information from KATS, including more informative financial records. Councilors had previously asked KATS officials to answer certain questions about the service and to provide a budget, but they say the documents they received did not completely comply with their request.
“I think we’ve all had questions about the amount, their expenditures,” said Weston. “Their documentation has been sketchy, but I’m with Jack – I think it’s a needed service. I see people use it every single day, and some people are dependent upon that, so I hate to completely yank the rug out from underneath them.”
Weston asked for time to research the methods used by other cities that donate to public transportation systems. She also suggested the city consider setting a policy dictating exactly how much to donate to KATS each year, rather than varying amounts.
Councilors opted to invite KATS officials to speak with city officials about the service. The matter is one agenda item set for a Thursday afternoon special council meeting.