By Karen McCall, M.Ed.
August 15, 2012
The County of Brant is going to implement a subsidized transportation service this fall that is really a specialized transportation service but if they call it a subsidized transportation service they don’t have to comply with the Integrated Accessibility Standards, part IV Transportation.
The County is going to cap the subsidy for travel using accessible vehicles at $400.00 per month. Of that, people with disabilities will pay $240.00 and the County will pay $160.00. This is based on the 2008 budget (we think) of $100,000. A budget that has not increased since 2008 even though the number of participants in the program has. There is every indication that the budget will not increase over the next five to ten years. No alternate funding is being investigated.
The new scheme is based on an average trip for the month of June 2012 being $22.00. There is no fixed route transit in the County of Brant, there are only taxis.
The County will be taking control of the eligibility forms and is determined to trim down the number of participants citing a number of abuses of the current service including going shopping and to the casino.
Question: How much is it going to cost the County for staff, photo ID cards, coupons, office space, office supplies and whatever is needed for the County to administer the scheme?
Answer: Staff assures the County they can do this.
Follow-up question: How much is that in dollars? We have no answer yet.
Additional follow-up question: Is the money to administer this scheme coming out of the $100,000 specialized transportation service budget. We have no answer on this yet.
The County, at the Community Services meeting August 13, stated that they are assuming that very few people will max out their amount if any.
Question: Does this mean that they are implementing a specialized transportation service that is designed so that people with disabilities can’t afford to pay their 60% of the cost?
Even if only 100 people purchase the maximum amount of $400 per month, the County portion of that is $16,000 per month or $192,000 per year, well over the budget of $100,000.
If all 543 people registered with the current service purchase the limit the monthly County subsidy would be $86,880 and the yearly subsidy would be $1,042,560.
Both examples are well above the $100,000 that the County has vowed not to go over.
The County has no participation figures for the years of the current contract, 2008 to 2012. They contacted the contractor for those figures. Although there are two years missing, it appears that the participation rate has been increasing roughly 25%per year:
- 2008 = unknown number of participants.
- 2009 = 320 participants.
- 2010 = unknown number of participants.
- 2011 = 500 participants.
- 2012 = 519 or 543 participants depending on who you talk to, the contractor or the County.
The budget should have increased accordingly by 25% over those years, however there was no oversight of the contract by the County. Realistically, the budgets for each year should have been as follows:
- 2008 = 100,000.00
- 2009 = 156,250
- 2010 = 195,312.
- 2011 = 244,140.
- 2012 = 305,175.
The contractor has gone to metered rates on the trips billing the County for the difference between the $7.00 the customer pays and the actual fare. In June this was $18,000 which is a more realistic cost than the contracted amount per trip which was anywhere from $15.00 to $25.00 per ride depending on who you talk to. Again, no one seems to really know the contracted subsidy amount per ride.
If we take the rounded up figure of $20,000 per month or $240,000 per year, in 2012 the cost would be equal to the estimated budget for 2011 which is a year “behind budget.”
Now, here is one additional piece: The County of Brant spans 326 square miles and has a population of approximately 36,000.
Brantford is not included in this as it is an independent city.
Statistics Canada estimates that approximately 14% of the population has a disability. Conservatively speaking, approximately 3,500 people could be eligible for the specialized transportation service. Taking that number times the amount the County will subsidize the monthly cost will be $560,000 per month or $7,280,000 per year.
This is important because the County is planning a huge “media blitz” to announce the new scheme. Few people in the County knew of the previously contracted specialized transportation service. With the “media blitz,” more people will know about it and more people will be eligible.
But here is yet another piece of this scheme. The County has stated that in taking the administration of eligibility under its wing, it can better determine who is eligible and who is not and will be developing strict eligibility criteria to eliminate those who do not qualify. As the administrator of the coupons for eligible rides, it can better monitor the budget expenses and make adjustments accordingly.
Question: Does this translate into “once the budgeted amount per year is reached, no one will be able to access the specialized transportation service? We have no answer on that.
Question: Can we do this when we run out of money? Just stop paying bills? We have no answer on that.
This whole series of events started because the existing contractor raised the amount being billed to the County (they had been operating the service without a contract for one year.)
The County in turn blamed people with disabilities for abusing the specialized transportation service by going shopping, to the casino, the mall, church, synagogue and mosque. The original “one woman goes to the casino every day” has now become the “one woman goes to the casino ten times a day.” This is accompanied by the “and if she can afford to do that, she can afford to pay full fare.” One almost can’t wait to hear the next installment of the story! It takes approximately 15-20 minutes to get from Paris to the casino one way. The specialized transportation service runs from 7 AM to 11 PM daily. That is one busy woman!
The original restrictions for people with disabilities that were to take effect June 1, 2012were that we would only be able to use the specialized transportation service for work or medical. Again, if we can afford to do anything else, we can afford to pay full taxi fare.
Now, when presented with the potential loss of employment by people with disabilities living in group homes or subsidized accessible residences by the new scheme, the response by the County is that “people with disabilities need to learn how to manage their money just like everyone else…if they can’t afford luxuries then they need to reconsider their lifestyle.”
Anyone want to sign up for money management and budgeting classes from the County of Brant?