July 16, 2014 - By Dan Shriner
The North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA) is making a first-ever request for Orion, Oxford and Addison townships to approve a .25 millage on August 5 to continue operations of the important bus service for area seniors, low income and disabled residents.
NOTA has been a transportation service for seniors, disabled and low income residents of Orion, Oxford and Addison Townships since 2001.
NOTA provides door-to-door handicapped transportation service for a nominal fee of $1 or $2 each way within northern Oakland County. The organization has historically been fortunate with the amount of grant funding that it has acquired and annual competitive grants have grown to 50 percent of the NOTA budget in recent years, according to director Lynn Gustafson.
The federal transportation grants are changing and NOTA is no longer able to apply for the grant funds it has relied on for operational service. As a result, NOTA is asking voters of Orion, Oxford and Addison Townships to approve a .25 millage for 5 years on August 5 to compensate for the loss of grant funds.
The millage will only cover existing operational service costs and replacement of vehicles. If the millage does not pass, NOTA will face cut backs of half of its service.
All public officials in Orion Township, Oxford and Addision are supportive of the millage and the service. Each community has invested tens of thousands of dollars into NOTA, which is located in Orion Township.
The organization has been heavily supported by its riders and has received approval ratings in the high 90 percent range. The service provides door-to-door transportation for those who are in most need of transportation.
NOTA's service is not a fixed route bus system but is termed a demand response personalized transportation system. Passengers call and pre-schedule a round trip ride and are able to ride for $1 within the three townships or $2 outside of the area.
NOTA's drivers do more than transport their passengers. They assist them from door to door with their wheelchairs, groceries, and other items.
NOTA operates Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and one bus runs to 9 p.m. for work rides only.
They are open with one bus on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday there are two buses from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. They have 18 vehicles and 15 of them are equipped with wheelchair lifts.
In 2013 NOTA drove 450,000 miles and provided 37,427 rides to elderly and disabled residents.
At the end of 2014 NOTA will lose $425,000 of its federal and state grants, because the money has been reallocated by the federal government for transportation in other areas. This cut represents a 47 percent reduction to its budget, and will mean a reduction in transportation by half.
A millage approval will allow NOTA to maintain existing service levels and also to replace aging vehicles of 3 vehicles per year for 5 years. The average age of a NOTA vehicle is four years old with 113,000 miles.
The NOTA Senior/Disabled Transportation millage seeks to replace the state and federal grants that state transportation authorities have indicated will be lost beginning in 2015.
The total amount of these grants is $425,000 this year. NOTA will fight to keep at least a portion of these grant funds, but the outcome of that effort may not be known for a year or more. That is why the NOTA millage request will be to allow up to 0.25 mills to be assessed.
The full 0.25 mils will be needed to replace the $425,000 in 2015. However if NOTA is successful in keeping some of the lost grant money, less than the full 0.25 mils will be needed, and less than the full 0.25 mils may be assessed. NOTA is hopeful that the actual millage rate will be less than 0.25 mils and the amount needed to maintain its level of service will be less than $425,000, according to Gustafson. In addition, NOTA is seeking capital replacement funds to purchase aging vehicles of three vehicles a year.
This will allow the fleet of 15 vehicles to be replaced within five years. The average amount expected to be collected per year is $589,000 in all three townships.
If approved, the maximum amount the millage will cost a homeowner whose home has a market value of $100,000 is approximately $12.50 per year, and $25.00 per year for a home with a market value of $200,000. The actual amount would be less if other grants are obtained.