Red Rabbit may be cut
A year ago GSC, along with Lanier Tech agreed to supplement the Red Rabbit loop around campus and offer free transportation to the students with ID.
This route wasn’t used as much as projected by the schools.
“Due to the low participation of the loop route between the Park and Ride, the campus, and further reductions in both the GSC and Lanier Tech budgets, both institutions agreed not to supplement the Red Rabbit again this year,” said Paul Glaser GSC’s vice president for Business and Finance.
On June 21, during a Hall County commissioners’ work session, a recommendation by Commissioner Billy Powell was made to cut funding for Red Rabbit.
“Powell never made a statement as to what inspired him to suggest such recommendations during the work session,” Phillipa Moss said.
Moss, who is in charge of the Hall Area Transit Bus Services and director of Gainesville Community Service Center said that budgeting was the issue.
“The county ordered a budget reduction on several things. commissioner Powell was under pressure considering the county is going through a difficult time financially,” Moss said.
Moss also said that if there were to be a cut then it would likely affect the Oakwood area in a negative way.
Billy Powell, Hall County commissioner, agreed with the importance that Red Rabbit has in our community but also said that the cut suggestion was due to the current economic crisis that the county is faced with.
“All the services the county offers are important to our residents. Transit serves a critical role for many people, especially the disadvantaged members of our community. But when faced with an $11.5-million deficit – which is about 12 percent of our total county budget – we had to prioritize the core services that the county is required to fund and that only the government can provide, such as the courts, public safety, and roads,” Powell said.
Powell also said that it is the commissioner’s responsibility to check all expenses, not just the transit system.
“It was our duty to examine our expenditures in all other areas; including community services like Hall Area Transit. There are 45 counties in Georgia that do not offer public transit at all. We certainly do not want to become one of those counties, but unfortunately a decrease in funding for this service is necessary during this economic crisis,” Powell said.
This cut in county budget has sparked concern amongst students that utilize Red Rabbit as a means to get to school.
Nancy Martinez, a current GSC student, uses Red Rabbit four times a week in order to get to school.
“This service is so beneficial to me and it’s reliable and relatively inexpensive. If funding were to be removed for it, it could affect a lot people not only students,” Martinez said.
Martinez believes these changes will have a negative effect within the student body.
“It would make it more difficult for students to get to class and would put more strains on students’ budgets being that they would have to find alternative ways, such as taxis and carpooling, in order to get to school. We as students don’t need that stress.”
This cut has taken effect as of early July and has been applied not only to the county’s transit but many other community services offered by the city of Gainesville.
“The county decreased its funding contribution for the entire Community Service Center, not just Red Rabbit, by $120,000 as of July 1. A total of $503,834 is budgeted for the Community Service Center that includes Meals on Wheels, the Senior Life Center, Hall Area Transit and many other services,” Powell said.
Several people of the city of Gainesville, including Phillipa Moss, stress the importance of this service in the community even with the budget strains.
“People and many students depend on an easy and effective transportation to get to school and be able pay tuition at the same time, which is why we are eager to maintain the support for Red Rabbit,” Moss said.
While these changes have already taken place, there are still ways that students can advocate for the Red Rabbit to stay.
“Students can write to their elected officials and their Hall County Commissioners to voice their opinions. Do not wait to the last minute to do this,” Moss said.