Lucas County begins path to joining TARTA

 TARTA bus on the street.
TARTA bus on the street. (WTVG)
Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 3:34 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The Lucas County Commissioners took the first step in the process to expand and change TARTA’s funding method on Wednesday. The board voted to add Lucas County as a member of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority, something the board members have been hoping to do for years.

The move could allow TARTA to be funded by a county-wide sales tax instead of a property tax, the way most Ohio transit programs are funded. The proposal includes a 0.5% sales tax.

Before the changes can go into effect, all of the city councils for the region’s 7 member communities will need to pass resolutions agreeing with the proposal, according to state law. Then, voters will need to approve of the change during the November elections.

This has proved to be a challenge in the past, as the measure has never received unanimous support from all of the member communities. Without each community getting on board, the measure hasn’t been able to make it to the ballot for voters to weigh in.

This time could be different, though. Ohio’s lawmakers included a stipulation in the transportation budget giving TARTA a two-year window in which the measure would only need a majority approval instead of unanimous support.

Last year when the TARTA proposal was brought forward, Maumee was not on board -- putting a halt to the process. During that window where only majority support is required, the expansion and funding change has fewer hurdles in the way to approval.

Despite the eased restrictions from lawmakers, an amendment to a tax bill put forth by Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) stipulates the 0.5% sales tax can only move forward only through unanimous approval; however, the amendment would allow a 0.3% sales tax through just majority approval.

According to TARTA’s projections, the current funding system would become inadequate in just a few years without the modified funding method.

“If we do not have a change and an increase in our funding, we will have a significant deficit in our hands in 5-6 years,” said Kelsie Hoagland, president of TARTA’s board of trustees earlier this month.

13abc’s Kayla Molander then asked Hoagland if TARTA would cease to exist at that point.

“We will have some difficult decisions to make,” Hoagland responded.

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