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Westport Sets Course to Fully Fund Transit Budget

WESTPORT, Conn. – Westport commuters worried about the future of Westport’s public transportation system can breathe a little easier knowing some members of the town’s legislative body will support fully funding the transit budget — which was cut by the Board of Finance.

Members of the Representative Town Meeting's Finance and Transit committees unanimously voted to restore $60,000 to the Westport Transit District budget, which supports all Westport shuttle buses. The Wednesday night vote means the committees will recommend the full RTM vote to restore the funds at its upcoming meeting.

Last week, the Board of Finance voted to restore $53,753 of the $113,753 it cut from the proposed $248,000 budget in March. That brought the transit budget up to $188,000, which is $60,000 short of what transit officials wanted. If the full RTM votes to restore the $60,000, the transit district budget would once again be $248,000.

“I hope you guys pull this off for us,” Jim Ross, a daily commuter who is legally blind, told the RTM committee members before the vote. “It’s an awesome service. We do use it. Maybe not everyone uses it every day like me, but the thing is, it’s always there — for everyone.”

The Board of Finance was seeking to reduce the amount Westport contributes for the transit system, which is operated by the Norwalk Transit District. Members agreed to restore $53,000 now, which would sustain services as is for six months. At the end of the six months, depending on the progress made toward streamlining the Westport subsidy, the board would consider restoring the remaining $60,000.

However, funding the system for only six months is a problem, said Bud Titsworth, co-director of the Westport Transit District. If the finance board decided not to restore the $60,000, services would be cut immediately. But the transit district, he said, needs at least two months to inform users before shutting the system down.

RTM member Allen Bomes said the Board of Finance plan was flawed.

“I think it’s crazy to start giving people six-month budgets. It’s a dangers precedent,” Bomes said. “We set our tax rate based upon the annual budget, so it's absolute madness to suggest this. We can get carried away with something like this.”

The RTM will vote on full restoration of the transit budget May 7. It will also vote on the Board of Finance approved town budgets.

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