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Proposed budget gives DCTA optimism for 2014

Profile image for By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

Denton County Transportation Authority officials are looking forward to a 2014 fiscal year with increased services and continued financial stability.

According to the budget proposed at Thursday’s board meeting, the agency is off to a good start with plans for improved services, staff hires and well-stocked contingency funds to assure smooth operations.

“We spent a lot of time on it — three or four long meetings,” DCTA board president Charles Emery said. “I think, in a general sense, I am pleased with our financial position.”

The proposed budget includes $25.1 million in operating expenses, an increase of a little more than 10 percent over last year; $2.4 million in debt service; and $29.1 million in projected revenue, an increase of 8 percent over last year.

Emery said the ability to stay in service and maintain a good financial position speaks well of the board and certainly the staff that implements the board’s vision.

“We’re almost totally in sync,” he said. “We have a good board now with very diverse backgrounds, a staff that is balanced, and I feel good about the organization as a whole.”

Emery noted some vacant positions that need to be filled, such as the head of transit operations, which was vacated by Jared Varner weeks ago.

He said a replacement is well on the way. The agency also is looking at hiring a dedicated technology staff person, a new customer service representative and a bus operations supervisor.

Other projects included in the budget are communication and marketing service improvements, such as a website redesign, and the installation of a wellness program for staff.

Though the service changes for August are just getting underway, the agency is already looking at January with changes that include additional midday trains that will cost about $153,000, bus service improvements to Lewisville Connect at $161,606 and Denton Connect improvements at $198,900.

The agency will conduct a series of meetings in September to get public feedback on the proposed January changes.

DCTA president Jim Cline said the agency is starting to work its way closer to its set goals and system plan objectives.

“I feel real strong about the financial stability of the agency going forward and the ability to build service levels throughout the system,” he said.

Cline said that last year he and the staff received a couple of questions from the board on the budget and they were able to respond and get those concerns taken care of. This year, he said, he does not anticipate any.

The next step would be a finance committee meeting, if necessary, and the adoption of the fiscal 2014 operating and capital budget at the Sept. 26 board meeting.

The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.