The city of Idaho Falls plans to make at least one more payment to the area’s defunct bus service so it can at least pay its employees before it dissolves.
The City Council voted unanimously Monday to make its $35,000 quarterly payment to the Targhee Regional Public Transportation Authority. This is the payment the city, which was TRPTA’s biggest source of local funds, withheld in March due to concerns about a Federal Transit Administration audit of the bus service.
The Federal Transit Administration has agreed to match the city’s contribution at an 80/20 rate, said Councilwoman Michelle Ziel-Dingman, who is on the TRPTA board and is helping to dispose of the agency’s remaining assets. The $140,000 in federal funds will yield $175,000, which will enable TRPTA to pay off much of its remaining obligations, including payroll.
“The only way to tap into FTA funds is for a local match to be given to TRPTA,” she said.
Ziel-Dingman said TRPTA owes a combined $185,000 on two lines of credit, including a little more than $100,000 in payroll obligations, plus about $15,000 in other debts. The agency has just $11,000 in the bank.
The TRPTA board voted to dissolve the 25-year-old public transportation agency, which provided both fixed bus routes and medical rides, in late April, citing a lack of money. The agency had done badly in an Federal Transit Administration audit in 2018, leading the federal agency to put restrictions on its funding. The Federal Transit Administration noted in its decision that the problems noted in 2018 also had been found in prior audits but hadn’t been corrected.
TRPTA had originally planned to keep bus service running for longer but shut down last week, shuttering its bus routes and laying off its employees. Its employees didn’t collect their last paycheck Friday because the agency said it didn’t have the money.
The agency still needs to sell its buses and other property, although most of this money will go back to the Federal Transit Administration.
The city has another $35,000 budgeted that would have been this fiscal year’s last quarterly payment to TRPTA. Mayor Rebecca Casper said the city should wait to see what happens. She noted that the city would not be getting fourth-quarter services from TRPTA, and raised the possibility of spending the money on other public transportation services that would replace TRPTA.
“The fact of the matter is ... we have a concern about certain residents going forward,” she said.