Kendall Area Transit may have to cut back its service if the state budget impasse is not resolved by the end of this month.
Paul LaLonde, KAT program director, said this week that the service, which provides dial-a-ride public transportation to residents throughout Kendall County, may have to reduce its hours of operation in the morning and evening if state dollars do not start flowing again.
LaLonde said the agency received state funds a few weeks ago to cover its April, May and June operating months.
“The only thing we really can do is reduce service,” LaLonde said. “Our philosophy is to maintain some level for those most transit dependent rather than do a total shutdown, which doesn't benefit anybody. If we stay open, even if it's on a smaller basis, that's helping people who most need it.”
About 65 percent of KAT's roughly $1 million budget comes from state grants with a smaller portion of federal and local dollars, LaLonde said.
KAT operates from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and LaLonde said without state funding they might have to cut their service hours by an hour in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon. He stressed that the county hasn't made a final decision but anticipates that the roughly 2,000 riders KAT serves each month could see cuts as early as the beginning of November.
“It's an unfortunate situation, nobody ever thought it would get this far. All I can really do is urge people to call their state reps, call the governor's office and ask them who's going to provide my ride because we won't be able to,” LaLonde said.
The biggest portion of funding for KAT's budget comes from the Downstate Operating Assistance Program funds, which are state funds for transportation for communities outside of the city of Chicago. LaLonde said DOAP reimburses operators at 65 percent of their rate. Locally, the Volunteer Action Center, in partnership with Kendall County, receives those dollars to run KAT. The program also receives some federal dollars, which LaLonde said the state was withholding as well for a time.
“Not only are we not going to get paid going forward, but the state was lagging in paying us from before,” LaLonde said. “And that is not all that uncommon for anybody that receives state funding.”
Kendall County Board member Lynn Cullick said she has heard about the cuts but there is unfortunately not much the county can do since it is facing its own budget deficit of between $3 million and $4.5 million.
“It's the same thing that's going on with a lot of services that rely heavily on state funding or grant funding. I think that most of those services are really suffering,” she said. “It's very frustrating because people are really in desperate need of those services.”
Cullick said she is frustrated by the lack of answers from the state officials she has reached out to.
“Everybody is pretty vague, we're getting the politician answers,” Cullick said. “They are so noncommittal and that terrifies me.”
State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, says she is aware of the situation with KAT, has met with LaLonde and is worried by the cuts that might have to be made.
“It's not something that we like to see, but we are just at a budget impasse. Everyone is at the table except for Speaker Madigan and I think people are seeing how much power one person has, and he has truly paralyzed this state, and that's not democracy.”
She added that Rauner and party leaders have continued to reach out to Madigan to sit down and discuss the budget.
“There's talks going on between the leaders, trying to engage the speaker, but he is just not engaged yet,” she said.
When asked when she thought Illinois might see a budget for fiscal 2016, Rezin replied, “I have no idea.”
She continued, “[Madigan's modus operandi] is to wait and wait and wear people down, and then he will some day put his proposal out that he will allow all of his members to vote on, and he will need all of his members to vote on it.”
In the meantime, LaLonde says he will try to keep the doors open at KAT as long as possible.
“If we stand pat and do nothing, we have enough money to probably get us through to Dec. 1 or the end of November,” LaLonde said. “If we do nothing and there still is no budget in place, we will have to shut down.”