State cutting subsidies
By Angie Landsverk
Waupaca Taxi fares will increase by a quarter, and agency fares will go up 50 cents, beginning Jan. 1.
“We’re trying to increase revenue and will also be working with the veterans home,” City Administrator Henry Veleker said during a Nov. 21 public hearing about the fare changes.
The Waupaca Common Council approved the increases by a vote of 8-0 during its meeting that same evening.
Lori Chesnut and Alan Kjelland were absent.
Brown Cab Service Inc. provides the city’s shared-ride taxi program, and there are several reasons why it suggested the city increase the fares.
“The state keeps cutting funding. At some point, we need to keep the system healthy,” said Dave Lowe, of Brown Cab Service.
In a memo to the city, the tax service said it and the city share the goal of reducing the amount of tax levy needed for the operation.
They believe the new fare schedule will help meet that goal.
Under the new schedule, the agency fare is $6.50, the regular fare is $3.75, and rides for the elderly, students and to nutrition sites will be $2.50.
In addition, there are planned changes to the service agreement with the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King.
Under the new arrangement, the veterans home would pay the city $4,000.
The amount would go directly toward the city’s local share.
That figure is arrived at after the fare income and state and federal subsidies are subtracted from the taxi service’s expenses, Veleker explained in a memo to the common council.
In the past, that payment was an income line item.
That resulted in the city receiving a lower subsidy.
The plan is for veterans home to also pay more toward its proportional share of service hours, he said.
That translates to about 20 percent of the system’s overall hours.
Those proposed changes will be part of the city’s operation and capital grant application to the state.
The common council authorized Veleker to submit that application by a vote of 8-0.
Lowe told the council that ridership at the veterans home continues to grow as its population becomes less healthy.
While there are more riders at the veterans home, the taxi’s ridership has declined overall.
In 2014, Waupaca Taxi provided about a total of 66,000 trips.
Next year, it anticipates it will provide 55,000.
The taxi service believes the fare increase and additional support from the veterans home will result in a $17,500 increase in revenue in 2018.
It said the additional revenue is needed because it anticipates the state will provide about 1.5 percent less of the taxi service’s operating expense in 2018, compared to this year.
That would be about $6,000 less in revenue to the city.
Waupaca Taxi believes the fare increase will cover that shortfall.
Changing the agreement with the veterans home will also reduce the burden on city taxpayers.
“We want the goal of not needing a subsidy,” Lowe said. “We will probably be closer in 2018 than we’ve been in years. If not in 2018, in 2019, we will get it down to zero.”
Ald. Paul Hagen works at the veterans home and complimented Waupaca Taxi on the service it provides to the veterans home.
Members and staff appreciate there is taxi service to the veterans home, he said.
The last taxi fare increase took effect Sept. 1, 2016. That one was also a 25-cent increase.