CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Looming state budget cuts could reduce funding for state public transportation by up to 15 percent, officials said.
The director of the state Division of Public Transit said local organizations would likely cut services and lay off workers should the state follow through with plans to cut the division's budget 7.5 percent.
Thirty-three counties across the state have some sort of public transportation program. Public Transit Director Susan O'Connell told state budget officials if the state cut funding, it is unlikely local governments would step up to fill the gaps.
"It is very unlikely that the local public transit systems will be able to make up the loss in state funding," O'Connell said.
Earlier this year, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin asked many state agency heads to cut 7.5 percent from their budget requests for the fiscal year that starts next July 1. Tomblin said the cuts are necessary to free up about $85 million in the general revenue fund to cover increasing Medicaid costs.
While most state transportation programs are funded with federal dollars or State Road Fund revenue, the Division of Public Transit uses some general revenue in its programs.
O'Connell said general revenue money serves as matching funds for several federal grants the agency secures for local public transportation programs.
Because the state money is used to help secure federal grants, O'Connell said state reductions would result in a double whammy for programs funded by those grants.
"When state funds are lost for operating assistance, a like amount of federal funds are also left unmatched," she said. "The 7.5 percent reduction has the potential to turn into a 15 percent loss in operating assistance, something that local projects are unable to absorb without service reductions and layoffs."
In the last budget year, the division used about $2.8 million in state revenue as matching funds to secure $19.3 million in federal grants.