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RTC Washoe Approves $223 Million Budget

By Carla O'Day
Downtown RTC bus depot. Image: Bob Conrad.
Downtown RTC bus depot. Image: Bob Conrad.

Industrial development and demand for services were among reasons for increases in next years budget approved Monday by the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County’s board.

The almost $223 million budget for the next fiscal year includes a fuel tax, budgeted at 6 percent higher than this year, and a sales tax revenue budgeted at 4 percent more due to economic growth.

“We’ve had 8 years of sales tax growth, we’ve had 11 years of fuel tax growth, and Washoe County has very low unemployment. We’re at 3.1 percent. The nation is at 3.8 percent,” said Stephanie Haddock, RTC finance director. “RTC creates jobs because 95 percent of our revenue is invested in the private sector as we do most of our business through private contracting for construction, consulting, and other services we provide.”

Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey.
Washoe County
Bob Lucey.

RTC’s budget consists of three major programs: streets and highways, public transportation, and metropolitan planning. However, County Commissioner Bob Lucey described the RTC budget as “robust” and “complex.”

“Not only is it just a fixed budget, it’s a moving target quite often throughout the year,” Lucey said.

Streets and highways consist of pavement preservation and capacity improvement projects. The approximately $137 million in expenditures next year, including debt, comes from the motor vehicle fuel tax, Regional Road Impact Fees and Nevada Department of Transportation partnership projects.

Funds from Regional Road Impact Fees are used to build new streets, ramps, widen roads and improve intersections.

Public transport is budgeted at slightly more than $81 million and includes bus service, shuttles, and VanPools. About $37 million of that is for RTC Ride, which has seen a 19 percent demand for service. Another $11 million is for operating RTC Access, which has experienced an 8 percent increase in demand. Other expenses, paid in part by federal grants, consist of 17 new ACCESS vans, 19 electric buses, charging stations, bus shelters, support vehicles, and computer hardware and software.

County Commissioner Vaughn Hartung said he’s not interested in raising bus fares but suggested RTC look at ways to increase passenger counts.

“I think it’s time that we sit down and we look at the routes and see how we can increase ridership, maybe even flex routes during the middle of the day,” Hartung said. “Seniors, for example, wouldn’t want to ride during commuter hours and commuters are not obviously riding during the hours that I’d need to go to a doctor’s appointment.”

Metropolitan planning, budgeted at $4.7 million, includes federally-mandated planning activities and other planning required to guide transportation programs.

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