Lynx, Central Florida’s bus transit company, may soon press Osceola and other nearby counties to increase funding up to 20 percent to help balance its 2020 budget.
That’s according to Osceola County Commissioner Viviana Janer, who sits on Lynx’s Board of Directors.
For years, Lynx has used reserve funds to balance its operating budget as costs for its handicapped transportation service, Access Lynx, increased and fixed-route ridership decreased. Lynx’s shaky financial situation made news recently after its CEO Edward Johnson abruptly resigned in February, following a preliminary budget shortfall projection of $20 million discussed by Lynx board members in January.
Lynx’s reserves are now at minimum levels, Janer told Osceola commissioners Monday, and the public transportation company can’t use those funds to balance its FY 2020 budget.
That means its four partnering agencies - the city of Orlando plus Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties - could pay up to 20 percent more to prevent services cuts.
Osceola County pays just over $7.62 million a year to support Lynx. A 20 percent increase could mean an additional $1,525,308.
According to meeting minutes posted March 28, Lynx Board of Director members discussed ways to balance the FY 2020 budget, including raising fares. A 25-cent fare increase could generate $600,000 to $900,000 more annually, but may result in lower ridership, officials said.
Meeting minutes also stated that an increase will occur to Lynx funding partners, and that “what if” financial scenarios will be examined to determine how much that increase might be.
According to the Lynx website, the majority (48.1 percent) of the agency’s funding comes from Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, plus the city of Orlando. LYNX generates about 20.7 percent of revenue from fares, advertising, contract services and other income. It receives 13.6 percent from federal funding and 9.1 percent from state funding.
More than 10 different Lynx bus routes operate in Osceola County, providing public transportation from St. Cloud to Four Corners. The county’s two most popular routes, Link 55 and 56, cleared ridership numbers of over 700,000 in 2018 (repeat riders taking multiple trips included). Still, those routes have seen some ridership declines (up to 11 percent on Link 56) since 2015.
Lynx is still working on its preliminary budget for 2020, Janer said Monday.
“I’ve asked staff to work with Lynx to do a deep dive to gain a better understanding of the budget and determine if there’s any cost saving items that could be realized,” Janer said.
The commissioner said she would provide fellow board members any updates moving forward.