An effort by the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) to put a change in how the agency is funded on the fall ballot fell short last month, but not at the hands of Village Council.
TARTA had been seeking support from all seven of the current member communities -- Maumee, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania, Sylvania Township, Toledo, Rossford, and Waterville -- to admit Lucas County to the group. That action would have allowed the transit authority to put the proposed funding measure on the November ballot.
While Maumee, Ottawa Hills, and Rossford councils had approved TARTA's proposal by mid-July, the Sylvania Township trustees did not, subsequently blocking the admission of the county to the authority, thus preventing any hopes for a county-wide sales tax to fund TARTA.
Currently TARTA receives $12 million in funding from property taxes approved by voters in member communities. Village residents pay a total of $379,000 in property taxes to TARTA each year.
Transit officials were touting a plan to replace the property tax with a half a percent county sales tax. The proposed sales tax would have eliminated the property tax, and would have generated $30 million annually.
During a June 28 joint meeting of the Ottawa Hills Street and Finance committees, TARTA General Manager Jim Gee told the group the transit authority would use $8 million of the additional funds to cover the costs related to expanding hours of service and the service coverage area for all of Lucas County, including Springfield Township and Oregon.
Gee told the committee members TARTA would give the remaining $10 million back to member communities. The funds would have to be used to fix potholes, repair roads, and other transit purposes. Ottawa Hills would have received around $100,000 annually.
Councilman Rex Decker questioned if the funds could be used to repair interior roads that TARTA buses don't usually use.
"It's not TARTA's place to tell a village which roads to fix and which not to fix," Gee said. He indicated the Village could use the funds for any transit-related purposes they wanted.
According to Gee, TARTA is one of only two transit systems in Ohio currently funded by a property tax. All of the other transit systems in the state are funded by a sales tax. The committees decided to recommend the Village agree to the proposal, which council subsequently did at its July meeting.
Mayor Kevin Gilmore was concerned with how TARTA would spend the additional funds.
"I just don't think we know enough yet... $8 million is a huge increase in funds for only a 4 percent increase in users," he said.