Niles, Mich. In Berrien County, voters have said "yes" to continuing a portion of the funding to Dial-A-Ride for Niles and Buchanan residents.
The Dial-a-Ride Transportation Systems in both cities currently receive a percentage of property taxes – or a millage – to help bolster their budgets.
In Niles, the millage makes up 15 percent of the overall budget.
“The availability of local funds also allows us to match some state and local grants, which is really why a millage is important,” explained Niles General Manager Evan Smith.
The service completes 100 to 150 trips per day, which adds up to about 32,000 trips over the year. Seventy-five percent of those passengers are elderly or disabled and many are without any alternate means of transportation.
“God bless them, you can't help but love them,” said Dial-a-Ride driver Chuck Leath. “All my customers, some of them ride daily, some of them ride two or three times a day. They have no other way to get around.”
The trips can cost as little as $1 with a reduced fair card, which a majority of riders have.
“It’s very important to the city and especially to the citizens,” said driver Fred Wright. “They depend on us to go to doctors, hospitals the grocery stores and just going out shopping.”
In Niles, voters took the opportunity to renew and levy up to 50 cents per thousand dollars of taxable value on all taxable property. The proposal is for the years 2015 and 2016 and the estimated revenue collected annually would be $97,686.
If the Niles millage wasn't renewed, it would have had an immediate impact on service.
“We’re probably looking at maybe some service reductions maybe staff reductions,” Smith said. “It's kind of hard to measure how far that ripples out because without the matching funds, we'd have to get creative for sure.”
In Buchanan, the Dial-a-Ride millage renewal levies one dollar per thousand dollars of taxable value on all taxable property for a period of four consecutive years, through 2018. The estimated amount of revenue generated in 2015 would be $84,953.00.
Leath said passengers were especially concerned about Tuesday night’s results.