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Published: Tuesday, 6/4/2013

Rossford weighs TARTA opt out

Residents may receive chance to vote on issue by year’s end

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Rossford residents may get a chance to vote this year on whether to stay in the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, even though a special committee of city council has recommended against dropping out.

Council will hold a special committee of the whole meeting at 5 p.m. Monday to discuss the issue.

The TARTA special committee was tasked with examining if Rossford could save money by offering its own public transit operating in conjunction with Perrysburg’s new service, which has a tentative start date of July 1.

It concluded that withdrawing from TARTA to do this would cost the city and its taxpayers substantially more.

Councilman Mike Scott, the committee chair, told council last week that city property owners currently pay TARTA $305,000 annually through the 2.25-mill TARTA tax, but $95,000 of that revenue was recouped each year through the tax increment financing district established in the Crossroads.

“The net result is that we are paying TARTA about $210,000 per year for transportation services,” Mr. Scott said. “If the citizens were to vote to leave TARTA and enact a new transportation levy — it would have to be in the form of a general levy — the payment to the TIF [tax increment financing district] would no longer occur.”

Mr. Scott said an estimate from Ride Right, Perrysburg’s St. Louis-based private bus company, came in at a cost of about $410,000 for the first year of integrated service with Perrysburg, using three vehicles. That increased to $452,000 in the fifth year.

Those costs did not include potential savings from sharing facilities and services such as dispatching with Perrysburg, he said. Any cost-saving arrangement would have to be worked out between the communities. Using price quotes, the TARTA special committee estimated that a 4-mill levy would be required to finance the Ride Right service.

Unlike TARTA, a new, private service would not be eligible for state and federal grants, which help hold down the cost of service.

Perrysburg’s TARTA service ended in September, six months after voters approved withdrawing from the agency and after years of complaints about poor service, empty buses, and high costs. In 2011, Perrysburg property owners paid about $1.5 million to TARTA. The five-year, 0.8-mill levy approved for the Ride Right service will cost about $450,000 annually.

Perrysburg is the only community so far to leave TARTA. Voters in Sylvania and Spencer townships voted not to opt out. In Maumee, a committee recommended the city remain a member, and council took no further action.

Nobody on Rossford council supported remaining in TARTA after hearing Mr. Scott’s committee report.

Council member Caroline Eckel called TARTA’s service “terrible,” but she could not vote for a replacement costing more than $400,000. She wondered if less costly quotes could be obtained.

Councilman Chuck Duricek noted that “Oregon and Northwood survive quite well without TARTA.”

Council members Greg Marquette and Jerry Staczek said providing public transportation was not a responsibility of the city. They supported letting the voters decide if they wanted the service. That vote would have to take place this year, as the specially enacted state law allowing communities to opt out of TARTA without the unanimous permission of the other members sets a Nov. 5 deadline for deciding.

Mayor Neil MacKinnon said he “wanted to hear from people who use TARTA to get to dialysis and doctors.”

He said he would veto any proposed ordinance awarding a contract to Ride Right if bids from local companies were not obtained.



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