Use of bus system funds reviewed |

Use of bus system funds reviewed

A state official says the cities of Grass Valley and Nevada City have to change the way they divide up state money that primarily funds the Gold Country Stage and Telecare, western Nevada County’s public bus systems.

Each year, the state sends money to cities and counties to fund bus service. The funding is from a statewide quarter-cent sales tax established in 1971 to help fund local public bus service. This year Nevada County, Grass Valley, Nevada City and Truckee are getting about $2.2 million.

Since 1980, Grass Valley and Nevada City have taken 22.5 percent right off the top of their share and spent it on roads. For the current year, that would have totaled $78,964: $62,961 for Grass Valley and $16,003 for Nevada City.

However, Caltrans’ official Ric Morales, branch chief of the Transportation Development Act local agency coordination, stopped the cities from taking the money for roads this year.

Grass Valley and Nevada City can’t just take money off the top to fund roads, he said. Instead, an “unmet needs” study has to be done first to see if there are any public transportation needs that could reasonably be met.

Such a study is under way to see if the Gold Country Stage can provide Sunday bus service.

The current setup could shortchange bus service, he said. “By setting aside a specified amount, they’re limiting their ability to address unmet transit needs.”

Grass Valley Mayor Linda Stevens bristled at Morales’ statements. “The bus service has had plenty of money,” she said.

Grass Valley, Nevada City and the county will reopen the 1980 joint powers agreement that divvies up state transportation money, she said. But Grass Valley is reluctant to simply hand over all of the money for bus service unless it’s sure the money is being managed properly.

“We’re going to tell (the county) to run their department better,” Stevens said. “It’s the transit department that has been mismanaged.”

No date has yet been set for a meeting to reopen the agreement.

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