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Published: Wednesday, 7/30/2008

Bedford Township voters will decide levies for buses, parks, and fire

BLADE STAFF

TEMPERANCE - Bedford Township voters will determine three levy requests on the Aug. 5 ballot, including a proposed increase in the levy for Lake Erie Transit bus service in the township.

Lake Erie Transit, which operates bus services for municipalities throughout Monroe County, will ask township voters to renew an existing 0.20-mill tax with a 0.05-mill additional tax to provide service to the approximately 16,000 riders who use the buses in the township each year.

The public transit agency operates fixed routes and Dial-A-Ride operations in the city of Monroe and in Bedford, Frenchtown, and Monroe townships.

If approved, the four-year, 0.25-mill tax levy would generate $325,000 a year, about $65,000 a year more than what the expiring tax provides. A mill equals $1 per $1,000 of a property's assessed value.

Mark Jagodzinski, Lake Erie Transit's general manager, said the increase is needed to offset escalating operation costs to provide bus service, including fuel, wages, and benefits.

The fare for fixed route and Dial-A-Ride is now 80 cents, but the transit agency recently approved raising the fee to $1 beginning Sept. 1. It is the first increase since 2005, when the fare went from 60 cents to 80 cents.

Mr. Jagodzinski said rising fuel costs are taking a big chunk out of the transit agency's budget.

"That is one of the major cost components for the increases," he said.

The tax, if approved, would cost the owner of a $200,000 home with a taxable valuation of $100,000 about $25 a year.

The transit authority operates two buses for passenger service from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Riders can flag down buses or call the agency in advance to schedule appointments for Dial-A-Ride service.

It also provides daily service to Westfield Franklin Park in West Toledo and Frenchtown Mall in Monroe. Ridership is up 6.8 percent so far in 2008.

"The buses in Bedford Township are extremely busy," Mr. Jagodzinski said.

Township voters will also be asked for a third time to approve a new tax for park operations and maintenance.

If approved, the five-year, 0.175-mill levy would generate about $189,600 in the first year, and would cost the owner of a $200,000 home with a taxable valuation of $100,000 about $17.50 a year.

It would also be the first influx of money for park operations since a levy expired in December, 2006. Voters twice rejected ballot requests for park funding in 2006.

The park commission envisions using the money for repairs to playground equipment and general upkeep of the community parks. It is not intended for acquisition of new land.

The park commission maintains five large parks - Indian Creek, White Park, Parmalee Park, Carr Park, and Samaria - in addition to maintaining smaller, toddler-oriented parks throughout the township.

A renewal to continue funding a 1-mill levy for fire department operations will also appear on the ballot. It will be reduced by the required millage rollbacks, estimated not to exceed 0.8980.

The tax will be collected through the end of 2008. Voters must vote to continue it. If they do pass it, it will be collected from Jan. 1, 2009, until Dec. 31, 2012, and it would generate about $972,000 in the first year.

Fire Chief John Bofia said passage of the renewal is vital for operations because it funds personnel, building improvements, vehicles, and equipment.



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