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OUT approves annual budget

As the Oxford University Transit system continues to grow, so does the number of buses, the number of routes traveled and the cost of providing the service.

The OUT board approved a $5.3 million budget Tuesday for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, which increased from the current budget of $3.7 million.

OUT needs to approve its budget early in the year so it can be submitted to the Mississippi Department of Transportation by the end of February to apply for transportation grants that pay 80 percent of capital costs and 50 percent of the operational costs.

This new budget won’t go into effect until October. The city’s fiscal year runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1.

The increase is largely due to the purchase of seven new buses — two 18-passenger cutaways and five low-floor 40-foot-long Gillig buses, and the initiation of two new routes.

New routes in 2015

In 2015, the board approved creating a new route, the Grey Route, to provide service to Oxford High School and the Oxford Commons area. The school will start charging people to park in its parking lot during home football games. The funds generated will go back into the city’s general fund, which will help pay for the city’s share of the OUT budget. The board also approved starting a new late-night route, called Safe Ride, which brings students from the downtown Square to campus. The route started two weeks ago and already has carried about 750 students, according to OUT Manager Ron Biggs.

“It’s going well,” he said. “We haven’t had any real problems. They are riding it though.”

The federal grant should cover most of the expenses. After the grant is applied, the city’s share will be $577,390 and the university’s share will be $1,213,355. The city’s share increased about $93,824 and the university’s share increased about $93,000.

The OUT board approved allowing Tim Akers, who works with McDonald Transportation, which manages the OUT system, to apply for the grant to be included in the 2016-2017 budget.

Ridership for January was 51,259, down from January 2015 when 74,273 people rode the bus.

For the year, OUT’s number reached 1.3 million riders and OUT officials said they expect that to increase to 1.7 this year.