11 percent drop in January tax revenues forces lay-offs for Summit’s bus service
March 18, 2009
SUMMIT COUNTY ” A sharper-than-expected dip in county sales tax revenue will force the Summit Stage to cut back service for the summer and lay off 12 drivers in mid-April.
“The recession has come to Summit County, I’m afraid in a big way,” said Summit Stage director John Jones. “It looks like we’re in for a rough time,” Jones said, explaining that his agency had budgeted for a 5 percent decline in revenues. At the same time, ridership is up about 2.5 to 3 percent for the year, and Jones even reported record numbers in December.
When county tax revenues dropped 11 percent in January, the Summit Stage budget took a $100,000 hit. Jones said the cuts became inevitable. Based on seniority, 12 drivers will be laid off on April 18, with cutbacks in service beginning the next day.
Even though gasoline prices have dropped significantly, it hasn’t been enough to make up the budget shortfall, he explained.
Additionally, the transit agency won’t be replacing outgoing operations director Jim Smith’s position anytime soon when he retires in late March, according to Jones.
Beginning April 19, there will be twice-hourly bus service before 9 a.m. Between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., service on all routes will take place at hourly intervals, returning to 30-minute intervals after 2 p.m. that schedule is the same as the service cuts that were implemented late last summer, Jones said.
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The Stage was able to implement the service cuts without cutting staff last summer due to a number of factors, including attrition and the fact that the agency operated shorthanded last winter. But that’s not the case this year, he said.
“In 34 years, I’ve have never had to do a layoff,” Jones said, expressing disappointment with the impacts of the economic slowdown on his tight-knit group of employees. Jones previously worked in the industrial rustbelt of northeastern Ohio, where economic troubles are not new. Even in that setting, local transit agencies were able to maintain staffing levels.
“I never expected to have to do it here,” he said, adding that he plans to meet with each affected driver personally. “We’re going to try and out these people back to work as quickly as we can,” he concluded.
Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at email@example.com.