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Rate hike likely for Casco Bay Lines

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Rate hike likely for Casco Bay Lines

PORTLAND — A Casco Bay Lines ride to the islands is expected to get a little more expensive this spring, as the ferry service attempts to balance its budget and create a reserve account.
The Casco Bay Island Transit District's Rate Structure Committee is proposing increasing rates 8.2 percent across the board, which means increased fares for passengers, freight and vehicles.

Catherine Debo, general manager of the ferry service, said that Casco Bay Lines has run a deficit since 2004.
"We're $600,000 in the hole at the beginning of the year," Debo said. She said the plan is to begin to overcome the deficit by creating a cash balance account of $200,000 for fiscal year 2010, which begins Apr. 1.
That $200,000 account plus a budget increase of 1.6 percent for fiscal year 2010 means the Casco Bay Island Transit District needs to raise about $272,000 more than this year. The proposed 2010 budget is a little more than $5.2 million.
Debo said the district's ridership declined this year, which she attributes to the recession.
"We took a big hit this summer in walk-ons," said Debo, referring to tourists and day-trippers who hop on a ferry just to go for a ride or to explore an island. And Casco Bay Lines expects a 5 percent drop in ridership in fiscal year 2010.
The proposed increase in passenger fares varies depending on the type of traveler and destination. All tickets would increase a flat 28 cents, and then an additional 4.1 percent. So an adult trip to Peaks Island during the peak season would be $8.85, up 60 cents from this year. A trip to Long Island is scheduled to increase 70 cents, to $10.70. Single-trip ticket increases range from 60 cents to 75 cents.
A fuel surcharge tacked on to ticket prices for the 2009 fiscal year will be eliminated.
Vehicle rates are proposed to go up $5.
Shipping freight would increase 8.2 percent across the board, and Debo said the district has consolidated its freight classification list. A few examples of proposed freight rate increases: a large piece of furniture, such as a sofa, would increase from $11.35 to $17.05; bagged or boxed groceries would increase to $1.25 from 80 cents; and small lawn equipment – a weed wacker, for example – would increase 70 cents, to $5.10.
The CBITD Finance and Budget committees meet Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 3 p.m., followed by the Rate Structure Committee at 4 p.m. The Board of Directors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7:45 a.m., but Debo said she does not expect the rate adjustments to be discussed at that meeting.
The board will hold a public hearing on the rate changes, and on its proposed 2010 budget, March 4 at 4 p.m. It is scheduled to vote on both issues March 5 at a 7:45 a.m. meeting.
All meetings take place in the Conference Room at the ferry terminal on Commercial Street and are open to the public.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net.
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