Thursday, June 3, 2010

TARTA and Taxes

The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA), commonly known as The Bus, is asking for more money.  I'm not surprised.  What surprises me is the clever way in which TARTA is camouflaging their request.  TARTA is offering to exchange the funds they receive via property tax for a small county wide sales tax.  One half cent, to be precise.  This means that property owners will pay a little less tax each year, something that is always desirable.  Residents who do not own property will start contributing to the cost of keeping TARTA rolling, another plus.  TARTA will get a much needed increase in funding.  From The Toledo Blade:
The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority had proposed giving up its 2.5-mill levy on property in exchange for a half-cent sales tax. The switch was expected to boost TARTA's annual tax revenue from $17.2 million to $25.6 million.
The sales tax would have a life span of ten years before it would be up for renewal.  By contrast, the property tax levy must be approved every four years.  That's quite a difference.  That means TARTA gets an $8.4 million dollar increase and doesn't have to worry about anything for nine and a half years.  Six months before the levy is up for renewal there will be a flurry of activity along with the requisite finger pointing and name calling, then we get to see if TARTA will have to cut back on services.

To get this on the ballot and make the new tax a reality TARTA first needs the approval of Lucas County and all nine area communities; Maumee, Ottawa Hills, Perrysburg, Rossford,Spencer Township, Sylvania Township, Sylvania, Toledo, and Waterville.  Perrysburg and Rossford have the option of dropping TARTA services if the tax were enacted.  Lucas County, Ottawa Hills and Spencer Township gave their approval for this new tax.  Sylvania Township did not.  Here's how the meeting went.

Carol Contrada voted Yes, saying that she:
...shared many of the concerns expressed by the other two township trustees, Kevin Haddad and John Jennewine, but said she would have preferred to schedule a special meeting for June 15 so that TARTA would have more time to explain its position.
Right.  Explain.  How many times have you heard someone say they just needed to explain?  Just let me explain...
Kevin Haddad voted No, stating:
TARTA hasn't come close to being operated as efficiently as a private business, said Mr. Haddad, citing the beauty salon he has owned on Monroe Street for three decades as an example of a well-run business.
"When it's public funding, you don't run it like a business because it's a gravy train," he said.
John Jennewine voted No, being in agreement with Kevin Haddad's reasoning and also because:

Mr. Jennewine said he was irked to learn the Ohio Public Transit Association, of which Mr. Gee is a board member [TARTA General Manager James Gee], had begun exploring asking voters to approve a 0.25-percent statewide sales tax in the fall of 2012 to generate revenue for public transit across Ohio.
"Are you guys waiting for approval [of the local proposal] here before you spring that additional revenue stream on us?" Mr. Jennewine asked.
My congratulations to Mr. John Jennewine for being well informed.  And yes, I believe that's exactly what TARTA intended to do.

I'll tell you what I find interesting here.  Two Sylvania Township trustees did a much better job with this vote than I thought they would, and both are well informed about the situation.  Much more informed than, I think, most elected officials.  I wonder if the government in Ottawa Hills knew about this State sales tax that's in the making.  I'll bet this is the first they've heard about it.

I also find it interesting that the Lucas County commissioners have approved this change in taxation, and that Carol Contrada would like a seat on the Lucas County government (link here), and Carol tap danced, said that she had concerns but wanted to give TARTA a chance to explain in a special meeting.  Yeah, explain.

Let me explain something.  We, the residents of Lucas County, are either broke or badly bent.  We do not want more taxes or higher taxes.  We already pay the government too much money for too little service. We want lower taxes and we want them now.  We want our government to run efficiently, more like a beauty salon and less like a bunch of politicos at the hog trough.  Understand?

Links to articles in the Toledo Blade are here, here and here.  Lisa Renee is carrying the story here.  Maggie Thurber has an excellent summation of the situation here, including information not mentioned elsewhere.

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