CATS in Disarray After Disclosure

CATS in Disarray After Disclosure

Government-Run Bus Company Says It Can’t Keep Its Election Promises

BATON ROUGE — In court testimony and in interviews with Baton Rouge area media, representatives of CATS (Capital Area Transit System) revealed this week that they cannot keep the promises they made to voters prior to an April 21 referendum that approved a major property tax increase in Baton Rouge.  The tax is being challenged in court by local businessman Milton Graugnard.

District Judge Todd Hernandez said Monday that he will rule within 10 days on whether Graugnard’s suit can go forward.

CATS, a government-owned bus company, had expenses of $12 million a year, revenues of $10 million, and a $2 million deficit at the time they asked for an $18 million-a-year tax increase.  But their proposed $30 million budget has collapsed, CATS officials confirmed.  The bus system will now get only $23 million a year, still about double its previous budget.

But that won’t be enough to do all that was promised, according to reports.

CATS officials said one of the biggest blows is the loss of $3 million in City-Parish funds but one Metro councilman asked why the Council would put $3 million into an agency that has doubled its budget.

Among the promises that won’t be met are the following:

• Six of eight proposed express routes to malls, universities, and other points won’t be implemented.

• Wait times won’t be reduced to 15 minutes on many routes.

Nevertheless, CATS officials say some promises will be kept, including the following:

• GPS tracking

• New bus shelters

• More bus routes

• Three new transfer centers

Together Baton Rouge and BRAC, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, both said during the tax election that they would be holding CATS’ feet to the fire if they didn’t fulfill their promises, but it is unclear what power they have to do so.

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