Jackson town councilors and Teton County commissioners are weighing a START bus budget ask that’s a million dollars higher than the current fiscal year’s budget.
The two bodies met jointly last week as budget discussions began in earnest. On Wednesday, the council and commissioners discussed budgets of joint town-county departments, START included among them.
START Director Darren Brugmann, who has submitted his resignation and will leave START this summer after helping with the transition to a new director, and START Board Chair Jared Smith presented the proposed budget to the council at $11,550,628. That’s nearly $1.5 million above the projected $10,088,520 for Fiscal Year 2021, which wraps up at the end of June.
The proposed budget includes the introduction of on-demand “microtransit” in East Jackson to replace the circulator route in that area of town; increased pay for drivers; restoring three driver positions from pre-COVID-19 levels and adding two additional driver positions; and the acquisition of as many as 11 new buses for the START fleet. Brugmann said they are hoping for a low-emissions grant to help pay for four new electric buses.
Brugmann explained that his goal is to pay drivers at least $21 per hour as a recruitment tool. Getting over “that $20 [per hour] threshold” is imperative, he said.
The operations plan for FY22 also includes further implementation of START’s new route plan, which Brugmann says will provide more efficient service and increased commuter and regional service.
The elected officials were largely receptive to Brugmann’s and Smith’s asks. Councilors and commissioners alike were also effusive in their praise for Brugmann and his leadership of START over the last six years.