Transit Commission backs financial services contract
Aging department to provide up to 7.5 hours of help per week
BY KEVIN BONESKE
The full board of the Oneida-Vilas Transit Commission voted Thursday in favor of entering into a contract to have two employees of the Oneida County Department on Aging provide assistance to help the commission handle its finances this year.
Commission member Fred Radtke, who found the billing rates to be too high and favored including a specific total dollar amount not to exceed in the contract, cast the lone dissenting vote.
The Transit Commission, which operates the Northwoods Transit Connections buses, sought the help with managing its finances after last year – its first full year of operation – when it experienced larger-than-expected expenses coupled with a delay in receiving contracted federal funds. That raised concerns about whether the buses could continue operating after the end of September. Grant funding later arrived and changes were made to the commission’s operations to reduce costs.
The contract between the Transit Commission and Oneida County calls for having Department on Aging assistant director Joel Gottsacker and account clerk Maria Cox provide the following services to the commission:
- Assist in the development of a balanced budget for the commission.
- Assist, using generally accepted accounting principles, in the creation of a financial management manual, which shall include, among other things, reasonable accounting controls.
- Coach and train transit the transit office manager (Barb Newman) in an effort to assist that person in achieving a reasonable competency level in bookkeeping and reporting.
- Provide ongoing recommendations to the commission during the contract term related to the financial management of the commission.
- Assist in compliance of all Wisconsin Department of Transportation requirements, and recommend procedures to help ensure future compliance.
- Assist in the creation of reports for financial management analysis.
The Transit Commission requested up to 7.5 hours per week of assistance in handling its finances. The contract’s hours, costs and billing provision states Gottsacker will, on average, devote three hours per week for those tasks and be compensated at a rate of $45.86 per hour, while Cox will devote approximately 4.5 per week to those tasks and be compensated at a rate of $33.54 per hour.
“I think this is a very good thing,” said Transit Commission manager Jim Altenburg. “An outside entity wouldn’t be any cheaper.”
In addition to the county billing the commission in quarter-hour increments, the contract also notes the time Gottsacker or Cox would have to travel from their usual workplace to the offices of the commission would count toward the hours billed.
Department on Aging director Dianne Jacobson said the total amount billed over a three-month period would be less than $3,500.
“The bulk of the work is going to happen in these first three months,” Jacobson said.
“I don’t see us going over the 7.5 hours (per week), on average, for probably the first 4-6 months,” said Transit Commission chairman Erv Teichmiller. “After that, I anticipate we should be able to dial that down some.”
The contract term, which takes effect when signed by the final signer, would end on Dec. 31 or sooner, with an earlier ending date taking effect upon the county giving written notice that the funds budgeted by the commission for the contract have expired or when both parties agree in writing that all services have been completed. The contract may also be terminated for any reason by either party by providing a 60-day advanced written notice.
Though the contract as drafted calls for the county to bill the commission monthly with those bills due within 30 days of receiving them, Teichmiller noted the commission has a “cash-flow issue” in which paying the bills within that time may not be possible.
“We don’t get any federal money until October, and unless we have a significant cash-flow loan at the bank, there’s not going to be money out there that’s going to pay that bill,” Teichmiller said. “We need (the county) to be willing to hold that bill.”
Commission members favored a change in the contract language to pay the county upon receiving federal funding.