Supervisors cut back HIRTA funding, switch withheld cash to RSVP – Newton Day by day Information

The Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency (HIRTA) will receive less money from Jasper County early in fiscal 2022. Those withheld funds – about $ 7,000 – were instead given to another local transportation organization: the Jasper County Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).

The county donated around $ 34,000 to HIRTA last year. At a budget workshop on February 16, Jasper County Supervisor Brandon Talsma suggested transferring $ 7,000 to $ 10,000 from HIRTA to RSVP, with the help of colleague Denny Carpenter. The board of directors opted for a $ 7,000 discount.

“I think we need to look at moving funds from HIRTA to RSVP on condition that RSVP believes that additional funds will continue to fund and expand the RIDE program,” said Talsma.

Both organizations serve as public transportation systems for residents of Jasper County.

Founded in 1981, HIRTA provides transportation services to seven counties in central Iowa: Boone, Dallas, Jasper, Madison, Marion, Story, and Warren. All vehicles are ADA accessible and open to people of all ages, abilities, and income levels. The drivers even go through training programs when they rent.

RSVP drivers are made up of volunteers aged 55 and over who are reimbursed for fuel miles spent on trips. With its Jasper County RIDE program, the organization transports citizens across the region to medically necessary appointments and doctor visits.

HIRTA and RSVP receive public funding from the County and City of Newton and federal funding as appropriate.

Talsma argued that the city pays HIRTA about the same amount as the county, but suggested that the cost was disproportionately in Newton’s favor. Even after taking into account the city’s larger population and the likelihood of more drivers per trip, it costs almost $ 2.75 per trip. The county costs $ 40 one way.

“At $ 40 per trip for the small communities and areas without legal personality, that’s not exactly a good use of taxpayers’ money,” said Talsma.

Public transport is expensive to operate

Brooke Ramsey, Business Development Manager at HIRTA, confirmed Talsma’s concerns: The trips within the county are “much more expensive to operate” and cause more wear and tear on vehicles, especially on back roads.

More fuel is used. The drivers are on the road longer. And fewer people drive at the same time. So the costs inevitably add up.

In the past few years, too, HIRTA has had its fair share of financial difficulties. Only recently has it seen some form of relief. In December 2020, Newton News reported that HIRTA was now at a “sustainable level”.

Doug Cupples, chairman of the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, disagreed that money should be taken away from HIRTA and complained that it was expensive to run these types of transportation programs, which are often important tools for communities.

“I see a big problem when we don’t have this service in our community,” said Cupples. “… The people who rely on this service, the vast majority of them are people who need it.”

Disproportionate cost-benefit problems are worrying the district’s supervisory authorities

Talsma understands the benefits of HIRTA’s services to the community, but said the county needs to consider the cost benefits. Ramsey said public transportation across the country is typically used by people who are “passage dependent,” meaning they have no other form of transportation.

Sometimes this is caused by income restrictions or individual disabilities. But Ramsey said public transportation “makes people live independently longer”. However, HIRTA still faces obstacles.

Internally, HIRTA is confronted with the fluctuation of its employees, which puts the organization in a difficult position. The pandemic also affected the company. Although spending was reduced due to government-ordered shutdowns, Ramsey said there was still more than $ 400,000 in spending in Jasper County alone.

Ramsey said in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019 that HIRTA’s cost per trip in Jasper County (including Newtons) was $ 17.40; Due to the pandemic, the cost increased to $ 31.36 per trip.

HIRTA qualified for economic relief through the CARES Act, which was passed by Congress and incorporated into law at the end of March 2020. To receive state and federal dollars, HIRTA must also adjust funding, or as Ramsey puts it, “dollar-for-dollar” funding.

“And we have to have local sources to use those federal dollars or we have to allocate those federal dollars elsewhere,” she said. “… We no longer have contracted services as we used to because shops are closed and people stay at home.

“As a result, our resources to find the right dollars are more difficult this year and are expected next year as well.”

In addition to the reduced funding, HIRTA will be denied vehicle replacement

Before Talsma made its proposal to reduce HIRTA’s funding at the budget workshop, Cupples advocated keeping the county’s $ 34,000 stake for fiscal 2022, but refused to provide the organization with adequate funding for a vehicle replacement to deliver.

Ramsey said a vehicle needs to be replaced in Jasper County and has requested HIRTA Match Matchs to pay for it. If HIRTA cannot find a local match, the vehicle will be reassigned to a different transit system. After that, the operation of the vehicle to be replaced becomes a greater effort for the company.

Instead of replacing vehicles every five years, HIRTA had to extend the vehicles to a 10-year life cycle with 200,000 to 300,000 miles.

“The cost of keeping these vehicles running adds to the problem of making these trips so expensive,” she said. “It’s difficult. It’s definitely your budget and your choice, but there are challenges when we can’t fully fund the service or replacement we have.”

Regardless, discussions about future funding are likely to continue into the next budget year, Cupples suggested.

“It is very likely that this will be an issue that will come up again next year,” said Cupples. “… There was some thought to look elsewhere to see if someone else could do it differently.”

Other municipalities do not contribute to HIRTA services

While HIRTA serves the other parishes in Jasper County, none of the small town parishes has chosen to provide funding. Ramsey said the organization’s finance and incentive committees have asked these cities for fair funding, starting at $ 2 per capita.

So far, the same municipalities have neither committed funds to HIRTA for the 2022 financial year nor asked them to participate in their budget workshops.

“Remember, four months of fiscal (year) 2020 included the pandemic and stalled, so these numbers are not necessarily the demand we would normally see,” Ramsey said. “We keep our fingers crossed and hope that people will start getting their vaccines so we can get back to a certain degree of normalcy.”

HIRTA wants to be prepared for this. Ramsey added that she could set up a time to provide the board of directors with more details about the importance of public transportation systems and why they are soliciting assistance from county government bodies. Ramsey says HIRTA is doing everything it can to be sustainable.

“But there are some costs that we cannot control, such as the cost of vehicles,” she said. “We can buy vehicles at a much lower cost than the average person because of the government contracts to which we have access and the binding force that goes with them.

“… We understand that it is expensive and that we must continue to face a constant challenge.”

HIRTA’s government funding formula is largely based on the number of trips offered. Fewer trips and fewer miles mean less funding received from state and other federal sources, Ramsey said.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

S.F. Board of Supervisors creates Music and Leisure Venue Restoration Fund

Lynn Schwarz, co-owner of Bottom of the Hill, poses for a portrait at Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco’s venue, which has been closed since March 2020. Schwarz recently spoke publicly at a meeting of the regulators’ budget and finance committee calling on them to support the San Francisco Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund. Photo: Marlena Sloss, special for the chronicle

The San Francisco board of directors unanimously voted Tuesday, February 9, to set up a San Francisco Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund to provide grants to venues hit by the pandemic.

The mayor’s office pledged $ 1.5 million to the fund suggested by supervisor Matt Haney in December. Any venue that meets at least two of the following criteria will be given priority: 1) There is an “imminent risk” of being closed. 2) it is at least 15 years old; 3) it’s an official legacy business; 4) its maximum capacity is less than 1,000 customers; 5) It is important for a particular cultural district.

The Office of Small Business will manage the fund in collaboration with the City Controller, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Entertainment Commission.

“We anticipate that many of these venues will also have access to federal funds from the Save Our Stages stimulus,” supervisor Haney told The Chronicle after the fund was handed over. “But we don’t want to take any chances with these venues because they are so unique and important. We want to make sure there is a special fund in place to make sure they are not left out. “

Lynn Schwarz, co-owner of Bottom of the Hill, poses for a portrait at the venue. Schwarz is optimistic with the adoption of the San Francisco Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund. “I’m just very hopeful that we can save the scene for the first time,” says Schwarz. Photo: Marlena Sloss, special for the chronicle

Immediately, the San Francisco organizers celebrated the approval of the fund, despite realizing that $ 1.5 million won’t go very far.

It’s extreme, extremely wonderful, ”said Lynn Schwarz, partner at Bottom of the Hill, where she is also the lead booker and bartender. The Portrero Hill venue has some cash to pay the bills thanks to a grant from the Hellman Foundation (which oversees the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass music festival at Golden Gate Park) and other sources, but Black estimates those dollars will run out next Month.

“I am very grateful that it finally happened. Personally, I wish it had happened a little sooner, ”said D’Arcy Drollinger, owner and artistic director of the Oasis gay nightclub in South of Market, adding that $ 1.5 million.is not a number that is going to have a significant impact on all of the venues that so desperately need them. “

D’Arcy Drollinger illuminates the ghost light on the stage of his Oasis nightclub in San Francisco. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

Mickey Darius, general manager of the Lost Church (another Hellman Foundation grantee), says the mayor’s $ 1.5 million allocation “shows that we worked as a squeaky wheel, but it doesn’t ensure that the Lost Church gets some of it. (The fund had no money behind it when Haney first suggested it.)

Darius added that local event associations he belongs to – a fundraising group called the Independent Venue Alliance and a lobby group called the San Francisco Venue Coalition – have conducted internal surveys to get a more accurate estimate of real needs for the nightlife and entertainment industry. Using anonymously submitted data on profits, losses and the number of employees, the groups calculate that they will need $ 48 million to cover their losses.

“We don’t try to do things like, ‘Oh, if we ask, we just let them turn the tap on,” said Darius. “We try to be realistic about what we ask.”

To that end, Schwarz and Darius hope the venues can make up the difference with the help of the private sector, and Haney supports that opportunity.

“We’re going to put a vehicle across the city so people can donate to the fund,” he said, citing the precedent of Give2SF, the city’s COVID relief fund, which accepts private donations. However, this new vehicle would be intended for entertainment venues. He also noted that the Venue Relief Fund is permanent and hopes it can top up its coffers as part of the city’s next budget cycle.

Lynn Schwarz, co-owner of Bottom of the Hill, poses for a portrait at the venue. Photo: Marlena Sloss, special for the chronicle

At stake is the city’s identity – a San Francisco without venues like Bottom of the Hill “wouldn’t be the city a musician would want to live in,” said Schwarz, while Drollinger said Oasis couldn’t go on without help.

“I am heavily in debt. The association is heavily in debt. I’ve put my savings into it. I’m all there, ”he said. “It’s so frustrating to say, ‘You can’t start your business and we won’t find any help for you.’ ”

Even so, Drollinger has adapted during the pandemic, creating meals on heels where a drag queen brings a gourmet meal to your home and performs a lip-syncing concert outside your door. Oasis TV with the news and gossip segment “Hot Trash”; Rooftop and parklet food when no closings are imposed on the city; the Suds & Studs fundraising campaign, “a socially distant, large gay car wash”; and now trivia and bingo as virtual team building activities for companies.

D’Arcy Drollinger brushes a wig for drag shows at his Oasis nightclub in San Francisco. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle

“It feels like we’ve kept starting new businesses,” he said, adding that each of those new businesses has startup costs and each network is often only enough to pay its employees.

Insurance, rental, and utility bills are not lost, and minor expenses add up. Drollinger still needs to fix the alarm system if it breaks, or replace the outside TV screen if it’s stolen, or repaint the building if it’s destroyed. Fixing a leak in the locker room isn’t going to happen – although it’s now damaged wigs, he said.

And he put on 40 pounds from the stress.

I keep asking myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” The worst that could happen is that Oasis doesn’t exist for a while like it does now, ”he said. “I can’t even wrap my head around this reality.”


  • Lily Janiak

    Lily Janiak is the theater critic for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: ljaniak@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @LilyJaniak

OC Supervisors Spent Extra Covid Response Cash on Sheriff Workers Than Well being WorkersVoice of OC

When it comes to federal dollars intended for “In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency,” Orange County officials have spent far more on sheriff officials than public health workers, according to official reports.

After months of pressure from Voice of OC under the state’s Public Records Act, Orange County officials released a summary of the payouts from CARES funds to county authorities and individual providers this month.

When it comes to government agencies, county administrators They spent $ 93 million of their CARES Act funds on payroll in the sheriff’s department, compared to $ 58 million on Health Care Agency employees the latest available data from the countythat runs through the third quarter of last year.

District officials made the data available after multiple requests from the Voice of OC to gain more transparency about how the district was spending the half-billion dollars in CARES Act funds it received in April.

This article is part of an ongoing series on how federal funds have been spent to fight the coronavirus in Orange County. Tomorrow we will be listing the top vendors receiving CARES Act funding from County Orange. Click here for a full list of CARES Act spending reports published to date.

The CARES Act law The funds can only be used for “necessary expenses incurred due to the public health emergency related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)”.

Sheriff officials say the aid to their department’s staff has mainly funded salaries in prisons and two operations centers run by the sheriff’s department.

“Everything we have submitted is permitted below the guidance document of the Ministry of Finance,Said Carrie Braun, Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman.

“The vast majority of these are wages and benefits for getting up in both the department operations center and the emergency operations center. [and] for employees in our detention center and the related operations, ”added Braun.

“We are very careful to ensure that what we submit is legal and what we believe is right is in line with the department’s response to the pandemic.”

The final decision on which employees to fund with CARES Act funds was made by the office of County CEO Frank Kim.

For the past two weeks, Voice of OC has asked Kim’s spokeswoman Molly Nichelson which sheriff and public health jobs have been funded by the CARES Act. This information is yet to be provided.

When asked why more money went to sheriff officials for the CARES Act than to public health workers, district officials said they followed suit Guidance from the finance department that the money can fund employees whose jobs “have been redirected to substantially different functions”, “essentially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency”.

“The use of CARES Act funds for payroll in the Sheriff’s and Health Department was determined through application of the CARES Act guidelines and FAQs below,” county spokeswoman Molly Nichelson told the Voice of OC in a written answer to questions.

“The use of the CARES Act funds in these two departments was for payroll, with employees performing tasks essentially devoted to mitigating or responding to COVID-19.”

According to Treasury Department guidelines, local governments can use the CARES Act money to cover employees’ salaries such as police redeployment costs to assist with administration and enforcement of stay-at-home orders. “

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes has retried said his department would not enforce “stay-at-home” orders.

Since receiving a total of $ 554 million in federal CARES Act funding in April, district officials have said they used it to provide coronavirus testing for the public, motels for the homeless, small business grants, and costs in county departments like Health Care Agency and Sheriff’s Paid Department.

At the start of the pandemic, Kim, the county CEO, said the CARES Act funds could not be used to replenish revenue that has been lost due to the economic downturn.

District officials say they spent almost all of their CARES Act grants.

They plan to cover testing costs from the county’s own general fund through March, though those revenues have been hit by the economic slowdown.

“Our plan is to continue the testing program for at least the first quarter of the new year,” said Frank Kim, the county CEO, last month to Voice of OC. “We need funding because these costs are backed by generic funding that has already been impacted and is at a level below what the departments need to maintain the current level of service.”

Kim also said the county lawmakers are now focused on getting more state and federal aid to the county.

Nick Gerda covers district government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at [email protected].