TAPS earned one of its best financial audits in recent years, officials with the organization said Tuesday. The paratransit company reduced its debt load from about $8 million down to about $1.2 million and it is expected to continue to decrease.
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said he wanted to thank the county for its financial support of the struggling transportation company. He wasn’t prepared Tuesday to ask the county for additional financial support, but he said the TAPS board feels that it is time to reach out again to area non profits for support.
Before they can do that, they need people to know the investment is safe now.
The audit report came from TAPS Public Transit General Manager Josh Walker at the Tuesday meeting of the Grayson County Commissioner’s Court.
“Because of all of the issues and all of the press when TAPS was blowing up, there’s still some negative connotations and we need to start changing that narrative,” Magers said indicting his desire to make people more aware of the recovery that the company has made over the past four years.
He said one of the significant things that recently happened was that TAPS moved to a smaller facility which cost less to rent.
In October, TAPS moved its offices from the Texoma Parkway location to one near the intersection of Skyline and FM 1417.
Magers said it would save TAPS around $30,000 which will be put back into provide more rider services. In a previously published story, the Herald Democrat reported that the new building has about 1,500 square feet of space.
“We moved that money into service because TAPS is a reimbursable deal so every dollar that we spend has to be reimbursed so basically we’ve moved money from overhead to service riders and that is going to increase our service time by 750 hours a year. Those are the things that I am pretty proud of,” Magers told commissioners.
Then he turned the presentation over to Transdev General Manager Josh Walker who said TAPS recently received a clean financial audit. Trandev is the private company that manages TAPS for the entities that are served by it.
“We had no findings period. No material weaknesses, no nothing which is important. That’s critical,” Walker said.
He said for the first time since 2015, the company has ended the year with a positive net position.
“He added that the organization also received a designation as a “low risk auditee.”
“That takes multiple years of having clean financial audits and following through with what we say we are going to do,” he said.
“It means they are not one-hit-wonders,” Magers interjected into the presentation.
“That’s all due to staff’s hard work,” Walker added.
He said TAPS has reduced its debt load from $8 million to about $1.2 million.
“And by this time next year, as long as as everything goes well, we’re at about $600,000,” he said.
He then thanked Magers and Assistant Grayson County District Attorney Craig Price for working to see which debts could be resolved and which ones couldn’t.
Magers said that $600,000 remaining debt is a judgement to a company that has since gone out of business.
“So its not really a debt, it is just a liability out there. I don’t think they will collect at all,” Magers interjected.
Walsh said ridership is up on the service.
“We are trending up in all of the right places,” he said.
“We are a demand service business. We are not a fixed route service where you are going to get those higher volumes of passengers per hour.”
He said the number of service hours is up as is the number of people served per hour. But, he said, the staff is working at lowering the number miles per hour by searching out the best routes possible. A majority of the people using the service, he said, are the elderly and the disabled. They are using the service mostly for medical visits and employment.
“Almost 40 percent of our rides in Grayson County are employment rides — folks getting to and from work. They work with us very diligently and our staff works with them very diligently (to schedule those rides) because every day we are at capacity.”
Not everyone who wants to use the service can, he added, however. He said they routinely turn people away because they simply can’t be fit into the schedule. He said the number of people turned away because they couldn’t be accommodated continues to rise.
“Service wide, TAPS have about 13,500 (denials), 11,000 of those have been in Grayson County,” he said since 2017.
Magers said it is important to note the number of people in Grayson County rely on the service and the continued need for additional service.
Walker said they are trying to continue to cut down on the number of denials but it is going to take more support from the communities.
“When I say communities, I don’t mean governments. I am saying other organizations, other partnerships, maybe bus advertising and that sort of thing,” Walker added.
Herald Democrat reporter Michael Hutchins contributed to this report.