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Commissioners approve Cedar County Transit budget

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HARTINGTON — Cedar County Transit will see quite a jump in its next budget compared to the current one.

Transit Manager Nikki Pinkelman met with the board of commissioners Feb. 28 and presented a two-year budget proposal for the county to submit to the state of Nebraska for the public transportation system.

“For the transit, we have to do a two-year budget,” Pinkelman said. “We used to just do a one-year, so now we have to do a two-year.”

The commissioners approved Cedar County Transit’s budget for the next two fiscal years with federal funds at $930,430, state funds at $313,385 and county funds at $313,385.

The public transportation system’s new two-year budget will start in July for 2023-25.

The commissioners also approved including in Cedar County Transit’s budget, the purchase of two new vans for the cost of $130,000, with the county’s share at $13,000, or $6,500 per van.

The public transportation system’s estimated operating cost for its newest budget is $1,149,500, compared to $510,600 for 202123.

“There is quite a jump in our budget,” Pinkelman said, noting Cedar County Transit now has a building expense it did not have previously, because it was renting from the city of Hartington.

The public transportation system also has seen its number of drivers and vans each increase from 10 for 2021-23 to 15 currently.

“We do have 50 percent more vehicles and drivers now,” Pinkelman said.

Cedar County Transit’s operating cost covers items such as drivers’ salaries and fuel and oil changes for its vans.

“We’re including the high cost of fuel,” Pinkelman said. “It’s really hard to estimate our fuel usage for the next two years.”

The public transportation system receives 50 percent of its funding for its operating cost from Federal Transit Administration dollars, while the state and the county each cover 25 percent.

Pinkelman noted reimbursement rates are set by the FTA.

“We pay it upfront, but then we get reimbursed at 75 percent,” Pinkelman said of operating cost expenditures.

Cedar County Transit’s projected income for 2023-25 is estimated at $98,400, compared to $28,800 for 2021-23.

Commissioner Dave McGregor asked whether the projected income includes payments from Knox County for public transportation services.

Pinkelman noted Knox County’s monthly payments of $2,000 are included in the projected income.

The transit system provides public transportation services for all of Cedar County and parts of eastern Knox County – Bloomfield, Crofton and Wausa area residents who live within 30 miles of the transit office located in Hartington.

Cedar County Transit’s non-operating cost – estimated at $506,100 for 2023-25, compared to $369,500 for 2021-23 – covers office staff, maintenance, utilities, supplies and other items.

The public transportation system receives 80 percent of its funding for its non-operating cost from FTA dollars, while state and county money each cover 10 percent.

Pinkelman noted Cedar County Transit “is reimbursed at 90 percent” for non-operating cost expenditures.

“Anytime a driver isn’t driving and they have spare time and I have them come in and help with our to-do list of other things that need to be done, we put that under maintenance and cleaning so we get reimbursed at a different rate,” Pinkelman said.