The Toledo area, alone among the Ohio large metropolitan areas, still relies on a property tax to fund its mass transit system.
In this general election, the Toledo Area Rapid Transit Authority is asking voters to make the change and allow the public transportation system to obtain its local funding from a more reliable source – a source that will permit it to operate more efficiently and to put monies into infrastructure improvements.
Issue 12 will repeal the property tax and transition TARTA’s funding model to a sales tax. It is estimated that the .05 sales tax will raise about $32 million for TARTA’s operating expenses and the investment in sorely needed equipment, particularly to its outdated fleet, says Board Member Kendra Smith, Mercy Hospital’s vice president of Community Health for Ohio and Kentucky.
The additional funds, says Smith, “will fund operating expenses with greater efficiency and accountability and help with road improvements along with adding new and improved service.”
Currently TARTA receives about $13 million annually from the 2.5 mil property tax the system relies on, “not the most stable stream of income,” notes Smith.
“The industry standard has been proven time and time again,” she says. “An effective funding model according to that standard has been set to elevate the system and provide quality service.”
Indeed, the TARTA fleet is the oldest one in Ohio, Smith adds.
However, the transition from property tax to sales tax means more than simply improving the public transportation service. There are economic benefits for the region.
It presents an opportunity for the region to:
Empower people to connect to jobs, education, health and educational opportunities over more hours of the day
Provide more hours of service, benefiting Lucas County businesses and thereby grow the Toledo region’s economy.
TARTA had attempted on five previous occasions to include a new funding issue on the ballot only to be stymied by member communities. Those member communities include Toledo, Ottawa Hills, Maumee, Rossford, Waterville, Sylvania and Sylvania Township – plus the Lucas County Commissioners.
A majority of members had to pass resolutions approving the placement of the issue on the ballot. Six of the seven passed the resolution with Maumee agreeing under its own resolution.
Lucas County voters now have the opportunity to approve the measure and increase transit funding enabling the system to restore Sunday service, match federal grants to replace an outdated fleet and establish countywide bus service.