HomeNewsTaylor: JTA’s budgeting errors a “$540,000 Whoopsie Daisy”

Taylor: JTA’s budgeting errors a “$540,000 Whoopsie Daisy”

Jackson Transit Authority may be forced to reduce services until July, if the Jackson City Council does not take action. 

The transit service, funded through the Federal Government, State of Tennessee, and City of Jackson, met with the City of Jackson Budget Committee Thursday, March 23, to discuss where their budget lies for the remainder of the fiscal year. However, during the meeting, the committee found major issues within the budget. 

The issues began when JTA Financial Manager Elizabeth Merriwether told the committee the City “owes” money for the organization to make it through the remainder of the year. 

Budget Committee Chair Paul Taylor stopped Merriwether during the presentation to clarify that word. 

“I just want to make sure that we’re on the same page that there is no ‘owes’ because we clearly expressed the amount of funding that the city was going to provide,” Taylor said.

The clarification was over whether JTA is supposed to receive the match for a grant from the City of Jackson for about $390,000. 

Through the meeting, the Budget Committee discovered JTA had never presented the grant match to the Jackson City Council, but included it in their yearly budget, and proceeded to spend money like it was there. It was also discovered the organization overestimated passenger fare revenue by about $250,000. 

With these factors, JTA was about $540,000 behind in revenue for the year. Councilmember Ross Priddy asked if the organization would have to cut services. The answer was yes. 

“They had over-budgeted to the city’s commitment. They had over budgeted their passenger revenues to such a degree that at this point in the year, they were on the brink of adjusting service,” Taylor said. “When I hear ‘adjusting service,’ that means impacting people who depend on public transit to get from their job to their house, from their house to the grocery store. I mean, this is for the people that absolutely depend on this.”

The Budget Committee decided to recommend funding the remaining $540,000 to the entire City Council. During the meeting, Taylor called it a “$540,000 Whoopsie Daisy.”

“We needed to go ahead and bite the bullet for them and get this funding to them, to help them continue service for these people. And so ultimately, it kind of came down to that. It was a mistake within their budgeting process that ultimately affects the City’s general fund,” Taylor said after the meeting. 

After the meeting, Maury Miles, an independent contractor for JTA, described confusion in the funding process and delay by City Council as to why JTA did not have the money. 

“And what I had been told is that it was their understanding that the City would address it later in the year to provide the balance. That’s my understanding,” Miles said.

However, Paul Taylor said he has been looking at the situation since December.

“Since December, I’ve been asking for them to project out, show us where they are behind. Their explanation originally was, ‘our expenses have been higher.’ When I look at their expenses, they’re actually significantly lower. So then I’m like, ‘Well, what’s going on?’ Their expenses aren’t higher. It’s tough. It’s a tough position for us,” Taylor said.

Overall, Taylor estimates it costs $375,000 a month to keep JTA running. After the meeting, General Manager Travis Franklin said the organization estimates 21,000 users a month. Fares are between 60 cents and $1.25. The service runs Monday through Saturday and is closed holidays.

The Jackson City Council will still need to vote to allocate the money to JTA.

Julia Ewoldt, julia@jacksonpost.news

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