‘A pretty desperate situation’: CCTA pursuing millage to keep doors open

Published 3:28 pm Thursday, September 28, 2023

CASSOPOLIS — The Cass County Transit Authority is requesting a countywide millage for the February 2024 election due to declining State and Federal funding in the face of rapidly escalating costs. 

According to Gerry Bundle, Federal operating support has decreased from 40 percent to 18 percent, while at the same time bus prices have more than doubled.

“We ran very close last week to not being able to make payroll,” said Cass County Transportation Authority Director Gerry Bundle. “It’s a pretty desperate situation.”

The millage would provide funds for all public transportation authority purposes, including providing public transportation services for seniors, disabled persons, the general public and operational costs such as owning, managing, and maintaining facilities, property, and vehicles to provide such services. The Dowagiac Dial-a-Ride system (DART) is owned by the city and the city currently contracts with Cass County Transit for dispatch, operations and administration. If the County system as a whole is not able to secure funding, the city will continue to operate the DART system for city residents.

Of the fifty-nine rural transit agencies in the State of Michigan, CCTA is one of only three that receive no local millage support from the areas that they serve.

“In the past, that was okay because we were making enough revenue from contract partners that it covered that shortfall. But our mix now has gone from being 75-25 contract-general public back in 2014 to 45-55 now,” Bundle told Cass County commissioners during a Sept. 21 commissioners meeting. “From a revenue perspective, our revenue for vehicle hours for contracts is $42.50 but for general public is only $3.04. When your general public is going up and your contracts are going down, the revenue’s going in the opposite direction; it’s not sustainable.”

If approved by voters on Feb. 27, 2024, the millage proposal would levy annually a new additional millage in an amount not to exceed .29 mill – $0.29 on each $1,000 of taxable value – against all taxable property within the Cass County Transportation Authority limits (the jurisdictional limits of the County of Cass) for a period of five years, from 2024 to 2028. 

The millage would generate an estimated $716,000 for CCTA services in its first year.

Bundle said that both Cass County Public Transit and Dowagiac Dial-A-Ride Transit are using reserve funding to supplement the cost of operating the respective bus systems. The reserves of Cass County Transportation Authority, which operates both systems, are nearly depleted. 

If funds run out, Cass County Public Transit will be forced to cease operations, leaving senior citizens, persons with mobility issues and under-resourced persons to be dependent upon friends and neighbors for transportation rather than enjoying the independence that public transportation provides.

 According to CCPT:

  • Over the past ten years, CCPT has logged over 95,000 vehicle hours and carried over 190,000 passengers.
  • As many as 69 percent of passengers are senior citizens and/or persons with disabilities.
  • Population projections for Cass County show an expected increase in the population aged 65 and over of more than 16 percent between 2020 and 2045.

Currently, Bundle and his team are working out ways to curtail services and figure out how they can best move forward with minimal impact to the public and to staff. The CCPT is seeking advertisers to advertise on and , and sponsor buses. Bundle also asked the Cass County Board of Commissioners to match $50,000 CCPT has in reserves in order to maintain services until the February vote.

“It will allow us to be able to have an orderly shutdown if the voters reject our millage request, or if it passes, to continue operating it through the first quarter of the next year,” he said. “Then we can figure out what to do after that to operate until the millage funds start coming in, which will be approximately January 2025.”

The millage would allow CCPT to implement its CCTA County-Wide Transit Service Plan, targeted at providing the citizens of Cass County with greater access to shopping, jobs, healthcare facilities and community services. These goals would be accomplished through:

  • Scheduled Routes that connect Cass County communities to key destinations in the region
  • Expanded Evening Service that provides Cass County residents with greater flexibility in accessing key destinations, particularly employment opportunities that require later work hours
  • New Saturday Service that allows Cass County residents to access key community locations on weekends
  • On-Demand Services that enable customers to use a smartphone app to schedule and pay for rides

The CCTA will need a sound financial foundation that would allow it to hire and retain additional staff and to pay for the goods and services required to support its operations. For Bundle and the CCTA, the missing component of that foundation is public financial support in the form of a millage.

“It’s those people who are most vulnerable who depend on us for transportation, a semblance of independence,” Bundle said. “If we’re not able to provide this service, where does it go? It’s bigger than any one of us as single taxpayers. Do we take that burden individually, or do we come together as neighbors to take care of our community?”

For more information, contact the CCTA by phone at (269)-445-2455 or email info@ccta-mi.org.