Feb 22, 2024 - News

Des Moines may budget $3.5 million to maintain DART services

A photo of a DART bus.

Photo: Courtesy of DART

Des Moines will consider allocating an additional $3.5 million over the next two fiscal years to help DART avoid service cuts, DART spokesperson Sarah Welch tells Axios.

Why it matters: The public transit agency provides transportation for thousands of metro residents each day.

Catch up fast: Much of the agency's current $42.2 million operating budget is paid via property taxes, which DART's commission says is not a viable long-term funding mechanism.

  • Transit advocates have for years asked state lawmakers to allow more cities to use special taxes on things like hotel rooms or car rentals to help diversify DART's revenue sources.

Zoom in: DSM already has the max property tax allowed by law for the agency's services, which is roughly $10 million in the current fiscal year — the equivalent of about $104 for an owner of a $200,000 home.

  • One option if city leaders want to contribute more is to increase the city's franchise fee on gas and electricity.

State of play: DART hosted a series of public meetings in recent months about its looming budget crisis with riders and transit advocates voicing opposition to possible cuts.

Meanwhile, some city leaders voiced concerns that DART "failed to deliver" on years of requests to revise its service and financial plans.

What's next: The City Council holds a special full-day budget workshop today.

Of note: DSM's additional allocations are tentatively $1.5M in the fiscal year that begins in July and another $2 million the following year, she said.

  • DSM's extra money would reduce the magnitude of service cuts but reductions would still be required to balance budgets, Welch said.
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