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CAT approves balanced budget with no tax increase Banner

CAT approves balanced budget with no tax increase

The Chatham Area Transit Authority on Tuesday approved a $27.1 million budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, an increase of about $609,000 when compared to the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget.

The budget retains the current tax rate paid by property owners within CAT’s Special Service District, which includes Savannah, unincorporated Chatham County and portions of Garden City.

The budget includes almost $13.8 million in capital expenses, with more than $9.2 million of that cost covered by federal and state grants. Capital investments include $7.3 million for six electric buses and ancillary equipment, such as charging stations, as part of the CAT board’s decision to transition away from diesel powered vehicles.

Board Chairman Howard French said that in addition to the environmental benefits, the transition will help insulate CAT against the unpredictable cost of diesel fuel.

“I think electric buses are the wave of the future,” French said.

Almost $2.6 million was also budgeted to cover the costs of a new Intelligent Transportation System, which will allow for service improvements such as real-time bus tracking, service alerts and computer aided dispatch.

The spending plan also includes $403,218 for the operating reserve fund.

About 53 percent of budgeted operating revenue is raised from passenger fares and the service district tax. Revenue generated from the tax is projected to increase $345,236 to almost $11.9 million as a result of an estimated 3 percent increase in the county tax digest. Revenue from passenger fares from fixed-route buses is expected to raise about $2.1 million.

The approved budget will be forwarded to the Chatham County Commission, which officially sets the service district tax rate. The CAT budget includes a tax rate of 1.15 mills, which represents no increase from the current year’s rate.

The 2019-2020 fiscal year budget covers the period from July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020.