Visually impaired resident appeals for expansion of county bus fleet

Melbourne resident Maria Rigogliosi has to get to her street corner, at Post and Croton roads, by 6:25 a.m. to get to her job in nearby Viera by 8 a.m.

As a visually impaired resident, the 69-year-old Rigogliosi can’t drive herself and must take Space Coast Area Transit, Brevard County’s bus service.

And if she misses her bus, it’s an hour until the next one, she told the Brevard County Commission last week as she urged members to expand the 30-bus fleet.

“You’re trying to entice more businesses to relocate here, but if you don’t have competitive services, what’s the point?” she asked. “Your transportation service needs a shot in the arm, a real boost.”

Rigogliosi’s plea came as commissioners approved County Manager Frank Abbate’s tentative $1.33 billion spending plan on first reading. It would go into effect Oct. 1 – if it passes final reading at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 24.

Commission Chair Kristine Isnardi, a vocal supporter of the bus service, pointed to two new routes in the budget, in the Viera and Palm Bay areas.

Abbate has said the new routes would provide 32 more trips a day and the county will pay for them with grants and an additional $150,000 a year in taxes. “Transportation is very important, so we absolutely need to do something,” Isnardi said.

But after years of stagnation, she said, the current commission is “playing catch-up” to unmet transportation needs and can only “peck away” with small efforts each year. “I’m satisfied they’re trying, but it is an uphill battle (for real improvement),” Rigogliosi said.

Meanwhile, under the tentative budget, the typical resident in Brevard County can expect a 7.62 percent reduction in the property taxes they pay for most county services.

Abbate’s spending plan calls for $5.85 in taxes for every $1,000 of taxable property value. It’s a decrease from the current year’s $6.33 rate.

The county can reduce the rate and get the same $11.7 million in tax revenue, Abbate has said, largely because of increases in the county’s overall property value. County Property Appraiser Dana Blickley’s staff has calculated an overall property value of $40.64 billion, an almost 8 percent increase from the prior year.

So under the tentative budget, for a home valued at $200,000, with a homestead exemption of $50,000, this will mean about $877 to the county.

And that should bring $11.7 million in property tax income to support Abbate’s plan.

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