MILTON — The statewide Transportation Disadvantaged Program provides transportation to those lacking access to transportation for medical and other purposes.
However, funding for the program in Santa Rosa County has dropped $87,917.

The Board of County Commissioners Monday discussed how to handle the reduced funding. Options include increasing the penalty for no-show riders to reduce wasted trips, and sending a letter to the county’s state representatives and the Florida Commission for Transportation Disadvantaged.

Santa Rosa County Commissioner Bob Cole moved the item to Thursday’s 9 a.m. Commission Regular Meeting at the Santa Rosa County Administrative Center Board Room, 6495 Caroline Street.

The reduction is due in part to the Florida CTD changing the formula it uses to determine how much each county receives, according to Santa Rosa County Planning Director Shawn Ward.

The effect has been a decrease in the number of rides Santa Rosa Transportation, which serves the Transportation Disadvantaged community, has provided.

"The state fiscal year starts in July," Ward said. "In July, August and September you started seeing those changes."

A quarterly report of the Santa Rosa County Transportation Disadvantaged Coordinating Board shows 1,199 transportation disadvantaged rides in July; 1,096 in August; and 948 in September for a total reduction in rides of 251 due to reduced funds.

This reduction has affected two other transportation programs as well, Ward says, 5311 rides and Vets to VA rides.

The Section 5311 Rural Transportation Grant provides transportation to residents in the rural areas of the county. The Vets to VA program provides transportation from SRC veterans’ homes to the Veterans Affairs clinic in Pensacola. Both are connected to TD funding, according to Ward.

"(The 5311 Rural Transportation Grant) is a federal grant," Ward said. "It requires a 50 percent match. It can match federal grants with state dollars or vice versa. So if you reduce one then you reduce the other."

Vets to VA is a private, nonprofit raising money for VA trips. Because many veterans qualify as transportation disadvantaged, they were receiving rides with TD funds rather than the Vets to VA program.

"With this reduction of $87,000 our cost has skyrocketed," Commissioner Don Salter said. "We’re spending about $30,000 a year to provide transportation for those disabled vets.

"It will exhaust all those funds quickly…At some time this board will have to address the potential additional funding if we want to provide that service for those vets."