With a difficult budget year staring down Waterloo Region, staff have been busy looking for any savings possible, even recommending the region pull back on the Grand River Transit expansion.
The original Transportation Master Plan had its transit ridership targets based around expanded service over five years, finishing up in 2023. Staff outlined in their proposal that it could be accomplished in seven years, while saving the region money.
However, Regional Councillor Tom Galloway disagrees with taking a knife to transit to trim the budget.
He tells KitchenerToday with Brian Bourke on 570 NEWS the transit was an investment and that he plans to "work hard to find a way to include these two bundles."
Galloway is referring to the "priority bundles" staff had outlined. Priority bundle 1 was recommended by staff and would see increase service in southeast Galt and bring 15,000 additional hours of service. They're recommending two other bundles—which would bring an additional 20,000 hours of service—to be delayed.
The two bundles would have also brought service improvements like buses every 15 minutes on certain routes, adding summer service on some routes, and evening service in southeast Galt on Saturday and Sunday.
Galloway says he has "a couple of ideas" to save the service expansion, and will be pitching it to other councillors.
"Within a large budget like the region has, there are some financial matters that are not so much service oriented that, sometimes, you can utilize to your advantage, and we've certainly done that over the years," he says. "So there are things you can do with reserve funds, one-time funding, reducing the amount of money you're putting into reserves, in order to fund certain things."
He also mentions that next year's budget meetings will be more difficult. He says the province hadn't so much walked back a lot of their cost cutting measures, but "pushed them off to the future."
"We're expecting that the 2021 budget is going to see a lot of what they had originally proposed for this coming year, to still be put into effect for 2021. So they pushed it down the road a year, but they haven't abandoned some of those funding ideals that really downloaded costs to the local municipality."