Bus system might get TEE Center's $350,000

Augusta Public Transit could get a little help from the delayed TEE Center.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham has suggested that money earmarked for operating the trade, exhibit and event center be temporarily used to help the transit system's strained budget since the Reynolds Street project will likely not begin for another year.

APT would get the $350,000 from transportation and tourism fees originally allocated for operating the TEE Center, Mr. Brigham said.

He suggested that the funds go toward offsetting money that would have come from the general fund to address the transit system's deficit. The proposal, recommended in a committee meeting Monday, is expected to be voted on by commissioners at next week's meeting.

"Why would we want to take money and put it in the bank when we could use it to offset our shortfall in the transit system?" he asked. "It doesn't solve the transit problems, but at least it does provide some cash on a temporary basis."

The TEE Center was planned for completion by 2010.

The fee, which is a $1 per room, per night fee charged to hotel occupants, is projected to raise $1.1 million by April, Mr. Brigham said. Originally, $750,000 was planned to go toward revitalization of historic neighborhoods; $350,000 would have gone toward the TEE Center; and the rest would support the transit system, said Rob Sherman, the city license and inspection director.

Fee collection has accumulated $460,014 since April and is projected to accrue $814,953 by year's end, he said. At that time, the TEE Center fees will help add $260,785 to the transit system's budget, he said.

Heyward Johnson, the director of APT, said he expects the system's financial woes to continue.

APT loses about $1.5 million each year, he said, and changes will likely still be needed to help with the shortfall.

"One of the commissioners has recommended that we raise the fees in some way, so I do believe that will still happen," Mr. Johnson said.

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.