By Alyssa Schnugg
The Oxford University Transit system will continue to not charge anyone to ride the bus through the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, 2021.
The OUT Board of Directors approved not charging for rides earlier this year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit to help citizens. Since the Mississippi Department of Transportation has agreed to cover the costs of operations for OUT at 100 percent, the Board voted Wednesday to continue to offer the free rides through September.
“There’s no need to charge the fares if we don’t have to,” said OUT Manager Donna Zampella during Wednesday’s OUT Board meeting.
Prior to the pandemic, adult riders paid $1 to ride the bus. University of Mississippi faculty and staff did not pay to ride the bus since the University covers that cost in its yearly share toward the operation of the transit system.
The Board previously agreed to keep the buses free for everyone through the end of the calendar year, Dec. 30.
“In September, we’ll see where we are,” Zampella said.
Also on Wednesday, the Board approved the proposed 2021-2022 budget for OUT. Due to needing to apply for grants from MDOT, OUT has to submit its budget to MDOT earlier than other city departments.
The proposed budget includes the purchase of three buses at $1 million with MDOT contributing $871K and the city and university both contributing $109K – if approved by the Oxford Board of Aldermen and the university.
The total budget is about $5.1 million, with MDOT contributing $3.1 million, the city contributing about $600K and the university contributing $1.4 million. The budget is about $750K less than this year’s budget.
“The 2021-2022 year will still be a hard year for the city and university to try to recoup what they didn’t get this year,” Zampella said. “So we tried to cut as much as we could.”
Zampella said she will present the budget to the Oxford Board of Aldermen next week during its regular meeting at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.