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Lucier is wrong. Grant money for Pittsboro Express bus does come from taxpayers

By Donna Kelly
Posted Monday, October 26, 2009

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Pittsboro, NC - Actually, the fact is that Chapel Hill Transit figures the bus will cost $360,000 to run for 18 months. While they have a grant for half of that, the grant money comes from taxpayers. Progressive elected officials and bus supporters seem to forget that fact.

Date: Mon, 12 Oct 2009
From: George Lucier
Subject: RE: Bussing Dollars?

Hi Tim---I have read on several occasions that the bus costs taxpayers 360k--this is a deliberate and politically-motivated lie and assumes that the bus would be funded for 18 months without any ridership and does not include the fact that we have the 176k grant which you mention---who in their right minds would turn down an opportunity to get 176k to initiate a much requested bus route that offers the opportunity of lessening traffic congestion on 15-501. The truth is that both Chatham county and Pittsboro will evaluate ridership after 6 months and the maximum allocation for the bus is 43k for Chatham county and 24k for Pittsboro so the real number is 67k not 360k. Nevertheless, lies and misrepresentations seem to be the name of the game for those trying to displace progressive elected officials.


While it's nice to think of it as free money that just magically appears, we pay direct and indirect taxes to pay for not only our own bus projects but other projects in districts throughout the country. For every grant we get there are many more that are funded in other areas. People are starting to realize that maybe we'd be better off if we paid for more things on our own without grant money so we could stop paying for other projects and wasting money on government administration in the process.

As for it only being $67,000 to local taxpayers this is an example of another flawed line of argument I've heard too often, along with Mayor Randy Voller's claim that it's only $2 per taxpayer.

The first thing any credit counselor makes a client with budget problems do is keep a diary of every thing they spend money on, especially small amounts. It's those nickel and dime amounts that kill a budget because they seem to be too small to make a difference. Every time I hear a politician use the argument that it's not a lot of money to justify a project it's a red flag that there's no solid evidence to back that project.

Those small amounts add up and they're hard to keep track of. It's all those little projects that don't cost a lot individually that have led to bloated budgets at all levels of government.

On the use of grant money I find it interesting that we're funding so many new projects with grant money lately especially in light of the following quote from the Chatham County Financial and Budget Policies:

"Grants: The County will pursue federal, state, and private grants to enhance services to County residents. However, the County will strictly limit its financial support of grant-funded programs to avoid commitments which continue beyond funding availability. The County will not continue programs after grants have expired except as expressly approved by the Board of Commissioners as part of the annual budget process."

Even if the bus is successful with the grant funding half the cost, there's no guarantee of future grants so it really has to be twice as successful to be self-sufficient in the long term.

Grants have a way of leading to major expenses in the future. The BoC decided to hire a new Transportation planner with grant money which may well have to come out of the budget in the future even if they get a grant this year. This year's budget also included $500,000 to finish matching a grant to purchase park land. While it may sound good to be able to leverage an investment with grant money, care must be taken not to take on obligations for future expenditures which may not be fiscally sound when they come due.

While land-banking may generally be a good idea, having to spend an extra $500,000 this year was an expense we didn't need.

Transit may well be a good idea in the future when development fills in along 15-501, but it's most likely too early at this time. This project feels too much like a haphazard affair put together quickly because Chapel Hill Transit got a grant, rather than a well managed project to meet a need in Chatham County.

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Lucier is wrong. Grant money for Pittsboro Express bus does come from taxpayers
Progressive elected officials and bus supporters seem to forget the fact the grant money comes from taxpayers.

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