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We need to re-route funds

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We need to re-route funds

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Editor’s Note: This Opinions article was written Jan. 29. On Jan. 31, Milwaukee County Transit System announced the nine bus routes will not be eliminated. See related story on page 1.

The smart and savvy are always looking for the most effective and efficient way to save a buck. Trimming the fat to provide surplus, allowing for indulgence in what’s “important,” or at least for the necessities.

When adjusting your own financial budget, it’s usually for the greater good. Less going out to eat equals a trimmer waistline and more money in that beach account. A win, win situation. In regards to Milwaukee County cutting a whopping $3.7 million out of the 2018 budget, I would not classify this as a win for most.

Anytime there is a major cut in funds such as this, there’s a great chance many are going to be negatively affected. People will have limited transportation to get to work and students to schools thanks to the near $900,000 in cuts that will hit MCTS over the course of this year. Yes, nearly $1 million will eliminate nine bus routes starting this March.

The cut is being referred to as an ax. The “budget ax” will fall on three routes serving business and industrial parks, one route connecting downtown Milwaukee to Concordia University and the MATC north campus in Mequon, and five routes providing school-day- only services for K-12 students.

When you think of bus routes being canceled, if at all, you assume that they are less traveled or insignificant. Who would have guessed that these few routes service so many and provide transportation to schools? MCTS is a critical economic development tool that gets tens of thousands of people to work, school and job training every day, and serves as a lifeline for thousands who rely on transit to get to medical appointments, senior centers and shopping trips.

It appears too that even our fellow classmates at downtown and north campus may be affected. I truly hope that none of the nine routes are eliminated, but of course I take a special interest in route 42U, the only bus service linking the downtown Milwaukee Area Technical College students with MATC in Mequon.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news; fortunately in this situation there is some good news to be shared. The Transportation Department Interim Director James Martin stated in a memo that no bus drivers will be laid off due to the service reductions, and that the budget cut was no alarming surprise as supervisors were notified of the proposed MCTS service reductions before a final vote on the 2018 county budget Nov. 6.

I am also happy to share that from my own research on the matter, it appears County Executive Chris Abele is putting up a fight; proposing that the one-time surplus of $481,082 from the higher-than-expected county vehicle registration fee revenue, and around $216,500 in other budget savings, be used to fully fund the nine routes for the remainder of this year. I have to be honest; I usually am. The entire fiscal budget cut “thing” makes me a little angry, and a bit uneasy. It seems that no matter our efforts, we as a county fall short.

I’m certain that we have all experienced losing a job, having to make some adjustments or even seen our parents experience some financial hardships. I get it. Although would it not be disturbing to scrape up every penny you earned to pay bills and buy food, and your significant other took their earnings and bought new shoes and jewelry, having no consideration or regard for your circumstance?

It’s a slap in the face and the saddest part of it all, in reference to our city is that we have this beautiful, grandiose new Bucks arena that is being built in warp speed. The Brewers’ stadium was also financed by us good taxpayers over many years. A half built, unexplained, unused railcar system, and poor mismanaged use of funds that have been divvied out for selfish gain in some respect. It behooves me to question how we cannot find the financial resources to keep something as simple as a bus route in motion for people getting to school, doctors’ appointments, or wherever these routes take them.

It’s simple. It’s all about priorities. Just like people, the county and government find money for what they feel is important. Our city is flourishing in the area of development, although we can’t seem to hold on to bus routes that service our everyday people.

Well, the numbers don’t lie and it’s obviously an issue that needs to be resolved. I will remain positive in hopes this issue, with some strategic planning and review of all circumstances, be reconsidered. Yep, I’m rooting for a win, win!

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We need to re-route funds