County Commissioner Chris Hill has been keeping a keen eye on TAPS for the past six months after receiving complaints from riders.
"About six months ago I started receiving complaints from residents that seemed out of the ordinary, which began to suggest it was more than normal operating issues at play here," he said. "My first reaction was to reach out to the executive director at TAPS to gain some insight."
Hill said he reached out to former TAPS executive director Brad Underwood many times regarding several topics including financial concerns, and in August the TAPS board of directors decided to form a finance committee.
"In the finance committee's first meeting it became clear that the extent of the organization's financial troubles had not been previously disclosed," Hill said. "The immediate charge of the committee was to report back the financial situation. We have made substantial progress, but I won't say we fully know the extent of our challenge at this point. I do know that we will be digging deeper."
Hill, a certified public accountant, corporate auditor and former corporate accountant, said he had requested several financial documents but only received a current bank balance.
"When the finance committee met to begin its work we were ultimately frustrated in that objective because of the lack of financial documents available to us," he said. "Management was not able to provide reliable and current financial statement and the finance committee was largely unable to complete its task."
The finance committee report would have been a full accounting of the organizations financing, Hill said, instead it was a report letting them know of the obstacles the committee faced in performing its task.
"The full board is now highly engaged at this point and we are all very keenly interested in seeing management handle this well," he said.
During the Sept. 16 board meeting, Hill said the board not only learned TAPS is currently facing a financial shortfall of at least $800,000 and possibly up to $1.6 million but also accepted the resignation of Underwood.
"It would appear at first glance that TAPS has spent more than we had originally budgeted," he said. "We left management with the charge that they immediately prepare an assessment of its financial situation and a recovery plan to help the organization back to financial health."
Because of TAPS' financial troubles, Hill said service cuts were necessary.
"We will be examining all of our service levels to determine whether we have the resources to provide those services to the community," he said. "As we move forward and make adjustments, we will do so with the understanding that we will provide services to our highest priority citizens first—those who do not have access to means of transportation and disadvantages or disabled citizens."