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TARTA pitches new tax plan to extend system

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    Passengers depart the 10L TARTA bus from Toledo to Rossford.

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The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority made its case to the Waterville City Council for a new sales tax to fund an expanded bus system for Lucas County.

The plan, presented during a council meeting Monday, would eliminate TARTA’s 2.5-mill property tax in its seven member communities — Toledo, Waterville, Maumee, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania, Sylvania Township, and Rossford — and replace it with a half-percent Lucas County-wide sales tax that would also be collected in Rossford.

The transit board needs approval from its seven member communities to add Lucas County as a member. The county needs to be a member for TARTA to impose a sales tax. Waterville did not take action on adding Lucas County to TARTA and will take up the matter when it meets July 24.

If the measure gets to voters in November and is approved, it will raise the sales tax to 7.75 percent from the current 7.25 percent. It would also scale back property taxes by an amount equal to $87.20 for the owner of a $100,000 home, according to the transit authority.

“The biggest advantage is people have control,” Mr. Gee said. “You can’t really control your property tax bill easily.”

TARTA would see a boost in local tax revenue from about $13.3 million a year now to about $30 million annually.

However, under the proposed request, one-third of the 10-year levy’s revenue — about $10 million annually — would be turned over to Lucas County municipalities, Rossford, and Lucas County itself. Those shares would have to be spent on infrastructure that benefits bus service, which includes everything from bus-stop shelters to street repair, sidewalk construction, and snowplowing.

The city of Waterville is estimated to receive $135,000 annually from the sales tax proposal.

Sales taxes are imposed only in quarter-percent intervals. Mr. Gee said TARTA needed more than a quarter-percent tax but did not need the full one-half percent sales tax, hence the distribution to municipalities.

The extra revenue would allow TARTA to expand its service countywide and operate additional hours.

“We cover about 82 percent of the county's population, but job growth is on the suburban fringe,” Mr. Gee said. “We would be able to do a better job getting folks to work.”

Waterville Mayor Lori Brodie said that the current TARTA schedule in Waterville is not conducive to many commuters, but an expanded service would be appreciated by the residents.

Contact Zack Lemon at: zlemon@theblade.com, 419-724-6282, or on Twitter @zack_lemon.

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