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Reporting snafu loses SLO transit money

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San Luis Obispo may have lost federal funds due to a reporting mistake.

During a mid-year budget review at the March 1 SLO City Council meeting, staffers reported the city is bracing itself for a $450,000 shortfall in the transit fund for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Interim Director of Finance and Information Technology Mary Bradley told the council that a reporting inconsistency to the National Transit Database lost the city Federal Transit Authority (FTA) funding, though city officials are appealing the decision.

Deputy Director of Public Works Tim Bochum told New Times the reporting error occurred in 2008, when the resident manager for SLO Transit, who compiles ridership surveys for submittal to the federal government, went on emergency medical leave. The surveys are used by the federal government to determine funding allocations.

During the manager’s absence, the FTA granted the city waivers on the survey requirement. City staff were unaware that such waivers affect funding. The FTA is one of the two largest funding sources for the city’s transit services.

“This came out of the blue,” Bochum said. “After we worked to get a waiver of the requirements, we were operating on the assumption that it wouldn’t affect funding at all. Then, two years later, we find out.”

Bochum said the city has contacted the FTA in Washington, D.C., and asked the agency to reverse its decision. He said they are still awaiting a response.

Should the one-year reduction in funding stand, Bochum said the city is proposing to delay replacing one of its buses—which is estimated to have cost $377,000—that was previously approved in this year’s budget.

According to a city staff report, the city may use reserves from its Urbanized Area fund to cover the shortfall.

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