SPARKS — The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) on Friday reaffirmed support for prohibiting openly carried firearms and other dangerous or deadly weapons on its buses.
Commissioners decided unanimously to only allow those who have concealed weapons permits to carry guns while riding buses, saying RTC’s policy did not violate the constitutionality of the state or nation.
Some commissioners were concerned about bus drivers confronting those carrying guns openly, but decided that with so few incidents occurring in the past, they would deal with each situation as it arose. They would not encourage bus drivers to approach weapons carriers but, instead, to contact the appropriate authorizes when situations arise.
Auditors: ‘All revenue is restricted’
Although the RTC received an “unqualified opinion” on its fiscal year 2011 financial report, issued by auditors Kafoury Armstrong & Co., RTC commissioners did run up against some issues in reporting on federal stimulus grants and were told the vast amount of all its revenue was restricted.
The RTC receives its funds from two primary major sources: fuel and sales tax, said Stephanie Haddock, financial administrator at RTC. A third funding stream RTC can seek is bonding, she added.
Sales taxes are restricted by state law and can only be used for transit purposes, Haddock said. Fuel taxes can only be used to build roads.
RTC did receive bonds in December for road projects, Haddock said. Last year, the commission ended December with a net asset of $61 million as a result. This year, RTC has $24 million.
The reason RTC’s revenue is restricted is because all of its income must be spent according to state statute. And all of its bond funding must be spent on building or maintaining roads on land that they do not own but must keep in safe condition.
However, fuel taxes have jumped 38 percent this year. So, making payments on the debts weren’t a problem this year, Haddock said.
Auditors discovered five violations, one due to revenue recognition of a receivable and the other four were related to a unique grant from the Department of Energy, a mistake that was found to be common among those who accepted federal stimulus funds.
The incorrect reporting was related to timing issues and all five instances were isolated and a result of time challenges due to a reduction of the finance staff, officials said. All five were administrative in nature and have been corrected, said Felicia O’Carroll of Kafoury Armstrong & Co.
In other news, RTC Executive Director Lee Gibson said all staff should be commended on the hard work that went into the Caughlin Ranch Fire last month.
“They made sure all paratransit customers were safe,” he said.
Staff made sure a phone tree was set into motion, calling all disabled or regular users of the paratransit system in the area to ensure they received the attention they needed.
“Staff made sure those folks were safe,” Gibson said. “It was a very challenging day here for us, but we came through.”
Public Information Officer position in question
RTC commissioners decided to table the discussion as to whether they would hire a public information officer for the agency following the departure of its last PIO. Plans were to hire an outside agency to deal with matters as they came up, but some commissioners felt RTC needed a “face” for the commission.
“The primary concern is there is no ‘voice’ of the RTC,” said Bob Larkin, vice chairman of the board. “We’re not doing a very good job of that.”
Commissioners agreed that although there is only enough media work available for a part-time public information officer, the RTC should consider reworking the position into having more of an educational role, as well. The topic will be discussed again next month.