Public weighs in on slashing of SporTran budget in Bossier City; mayor expresses disappointment in timing

Bossier City wants to cut funding to SporTran by about $400,000.
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 4:23 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 24, 2023 at 10:26 PM CST
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BOSSIER CITY, La. (KSLA) - Bossier City residents had their say Tuesday, Jan. 24 at a city council meeting that got underway late in the afternoon.

And council members decided to postpone their final vote on whether to significantly cut funding to SporTran bus services. SporTran is funded by both Bossier City and the City of Shreveport.

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This happened after a lot of pushback from several who rely on the public transit service to get to and from work.

On Jan. 10, council members decided to slash the city’s SporTran budget from $900,000 to $500,000 annually. To accomodate, SporTran would eliminate its weekend and overnight services in Bossier City starting in early February. Also, buses would not run between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

After public input, council members are expected to vote on slashing the city’s SporTran budget from $900,000 to $500,000 annually.

Mayor Tommy Chandler released a statement Tuesday afternoon expressing his disappointment in the timing of the city council’s ordinance cutting the SporTran budget. The full statement reads:

“On Tuesday, January 10, 2023, the City Council introduced an ordinance to cut funding to SporTran by $400,000. While I am open to renegotiating this contract that has been in place since the mid-1970s, I do not agree with the timing of this decision as we are less than one month into the current year’s budget. I do not oppose reevaluating our annual appropriation to SporTran, but it should be done during budget negotiations for the 2024 operating budget, not less than two months after this year’s budget was adopted.

The City Council has the authority to reduce SporTran’s budget via ordinance. If the budget amendment is adopted, it will increase the City’s 2023 General Fund balance by $400,000. If the Council chooses to reduce the funding for public transportation, I will propose those dollars are reinvested in meaningful ways that benefit the citizens of Bossier City. Public safety is one of my top priorities and additional funds would allow the Bossier City Police Department to hire more officers to meet the needs of our growing city. Other agencies within Bossier City could also benefit from additional funding, such as Bossier Council on Aging, which provides transportation and meals to our elderly population within the City.

Ultimately, the final decision on SporTran’s funding rests with the City Council. While I don’t agree with the timing of this budget amendment, I am focusing on making sure these funds will be used to benefit the citizens of Bossier City.”

In the end, the council delayed its decision.

And SporTran issued the following statement:

“Regarding the Feb. 5 timeline for the proposed service cuts, we’re unsure at this time if that will move forward.”

But before all that happened, citizens had their say.

“What I don’t think you realize in making this decision to cut the budget is how deeply and disproportionately it will affect the paratransit riders,” one woman said during the public meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“I was quite scared. SporTran services get many of the disabled community to and from work. The ability to go to the grocery stores and just live everyday life,” said Danny Keith, who uses SporTran.

Nakescha Bennett, who also uses SporTran, said: “I believe they should broaden their view on how they’re going to handle the situation and how they’re going to continue bringing the buses from Bossier to Shreveport and from Shreveport to Bossier.”

District 2 Councilman Jeffery Darby said: “We will do what we can to make sure that the impact is minimal. And when it comes to money, it can only go so far sometimes.”

The council is expected to take a final vote on the ordinance Feb. 21.