THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
Could Perrysburg officials’ decision to pay for interim public transit in the city after the Sept. 22 end of TARTA service have contributed to that levy’s narrow defeat at the polls Tuesday?
That was among the theories advanced during a Perrysburg City Council committee meeting today during which voter confusion was cited as the top reason a 1.45-mill tax to pay for local transit fell by 183 votes, out of more than 11,600 ballots cast, according to unofficial results.
Council’s health, sanitation, and public utilities committee agreed to request a special council meeting to consider extending city funding for the interim service through Nov. 30, which committee Chairman J. Todd Grayson said would give bus contractor Ride Right, Inc., a definite date to work through for now while city officials study funding options for continuing the local service until another levy vote may be held.
“People I talked to said they just didn’t know enough about it to vote for it,” committee member John Kevern said, adding later, “We’re going to get this passed. If we lost by 2,000 votes, it would be different, but we lost by a hundred and some.”
“The key is just information to the voters,” Mr. Grayson said, agreeing that voter confusion was a factor in the levy defeat. “Everybody I talked to who understood the dynamics of the transportation levy was in favor of it. But a confused voter is going to vote No on a levy — as they should.”
But the city will have to act quickly to get another levy vote on the March 5 special-election ballot, because required resolutions must be passed 90 days in advance.
The local levy vote Tuesday came eight months Perrysburg voters’ decision to withdraw from the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, which ceased its service to the city six months after that vote’s certification in accordance with state law.
TARTA collects two property levies for a combined 2.5 mills in its service area, and Mr. Grayson said some voters he spoke with mistakenly believed that tax would continue to be assessed in Perrysburg, when it actually ends this year pursuant to the city’s opt-out.
Providing interim service, he said, “may have contributed to the confusion” because some voters may have wrongly believed that the call-a-ride and paratransit service was a base line that would continue whether or not the levy passed.
“A lot of people thought that even if the levy went down, there would still be service for people with disabilities,” said Gil Lutz, a member of the levy’s campaign committee.
The interim service, which city administrator Bridgette Kabat said cost the city $18,500 in October, now is scheduled to end the day after the Wood County Board of Elections certifies the results of Tuesday’s voting. Ms. Kabat said that certification will occur between Nov. 16 and Nov. 27 — the first date being 10 days after the election, the second being the deadline for the elections board to submit results to the state of Ohio.
Rosa Linda Brown, a city resident who relies on public transportation “for every single thing I do,” urged city leaders to set a firm date for extending service and asked what she could do to help secure funding for its continuation.
Mr. Grayson said the best bet appeared to be to contact county officials or state legislators about possible block-grant funding, because state and federal transit funding or Toledo-area communities is controlled by TARTA. A relatively small amount of block-grant money could go far to tide Perrysburg’s local transit over through March, he said.
But Jean Duston, a levy committee member, noted that because any levy approved March 5 would not be collected until 2014, the city would have to figure out a way to finance transit service in 2013 and cutting the proposed tax rate “doesn’t sound like a good idea.”
Mr. Grayson had said earlier in discussion that the 1.45 mills had been set a bit high because, at the time, city council did not know which of several firms it might choose to run the service, so a lower rate might be proposed for a March vote now that actual costs are known.
Contact David Patch at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6094.