Senior levy officials unhappy

Say administrator ‘overreached’ in fund debate

WARREN — Three members of the Trumbull County Senior Levy Advisory Council say the levy administrator “overreached” in a meeting during which it was suggested the council explore bidding out funds that now go to the county’s transportation system.

Diane Siskowic-Jurkovic, the senior levy administrator, called the Dec. 22 meeting of the council’s transportation subcommittee to discuss the cost of trips provided to seniors by the Trumbull County Transit Board through its contractor, Community Bus Services.

The subcommittee determined they wanted to meet with Trumbull County commissioners to discuss bidding out the transportation services to see if another company could offer senior rides for less money.

“We requested to meet with the commissioners to discuss our options. That is our only intention, to discuss our options and concerns,” Siskowic-Jurkovic said. “We aren’t interested in trying to kill the transit system or change it completely. We are just looking at all of our options, which I thought was the council’s duty and responsibility.”

But advisory council members Ben Kyle, chairman; Mary Williams, vice chairwoman, who also belongs to the transportation subcommittee; and Don Bishop, wrote they believe Siskowic-Jurkovic “overreached in her position as the administrator due to the fact she continues to treat the committee as oversight, which it is not.”

The idea of putting the transportation services out to bid was discussed in prior meetings, but some members “were not in favor of the disruption in the county transportation services that would ensue if such a bid process were to occur,” the letter states.

Siskowic-Jurkovic calculated the cost per mile of CBS rides at $3.89, compared to rides that cost between $1.50 to $2.85 per mile in Ashtabula and Mahoning counties, she said. Terry Thomas, president of the bus service, said the trips can’t be accurately calculated on a per-mile basis, but on a per-trip basis, which is about $60.

The transit board relies on levy dollars, passenger fares and contracts with local communities to leverage grant money from the Federal Transit Administration and the Ohio Department of Transportation to run the system.

The levy generates about $2.4 million per year. The transit board last year received $600,000 in levy funds, which was about $175,000 more than in prior years.

When the county handed over the extra $175,000 in 2017 after receiving complaints too many people weren’t getting the ride times they needed, Siskowic-Jurkovic began auditing CBS’ ridership numbers to ensure the extra money was being used for more rides for seniors.

An agreement between the transit board and the county states seniors should get 20,000 rides per year in return for the levy funding.

If the transit board were to lose levy funds, it could jeopardize the system, which provides about 60,000 rides per year. Other counties use a transit levy to pay for local matching dollars. An effort in 2011 to pass a transit levy failed in Trumbull County.

Kyle, Williams and Bishop end the letter by asking the commissioners to “redirect” Siskowic-Jurkovic’s “activity in this matter.”

“Oversight is my job. It isn’t a responsibility I have put on the council’s shoulders; I handle oversight. My intention was to keep them informed and the subcommittee members decided they wanted to meet commissioners to discuss our options,” Siskowic-Jurkovic said. “It is not the job of the members to recommend to commissioners what type of oversight I should be giving.”