LIMA — Citing lack of public support and an already stretched budget for marketing, the Allen County Regional Transit Authority has decided to stay off the November ballot.
The ACRTA Board of Trustees voted against putting a sales tax levy on the November ballot during their monthly meeting held this Tuesday. The organization had been considering the tactic since losing a similar initiative asking for a .25 percent sales tax increase this last fall, but concerns of another failure stopped the second attempt, ACRTA Director Sheila Haney said.
In the meantime, the agency will be working to drum up community-wide support and forming partnerships with other organizations to show its worth.
The loss at the polls last fall has already forced cuts on the organization’s bus service. To deal with a shrinking budget, both nights and weekend fixed routes had been canceled at the beginning of this year.
Since that time, Haney has been vocal about the need for an infusion of funds into the RTA’s budget as a shrinking of services could set off a chain reaction of reducing ridership numbers, which would slowly squeeze any funding they currently receive from state grants because allocation amounts rely on ridership. As today, the agency is in the black, but within a year, there will be a “crisis,” Haney said.
Statistics gathered from the ACRTA seem to confirm the problem. Monthly ridership numbers released last May showed that the ACRTA would lose one third of its riders due to the 2018 cuts in weekend and night fixed routes.
“This has been a struggle for several years. The financing and revenue has always been a struggle, and it will always be a struggle because we rely on federal and state grants,” Haney said.
Haney visited Allen County Commissioners in May to ask for $95,000 from the county to help disrupt the trend. The county currently allocates no funds to the public bus service. At that time, commissioners made no official decision and asked Haney to revisit the issue in the fall when the county decides the details of its budget. She said she has quarterly meetings planned with the commissioners to do just that.
In the future, Haney said the agency will work to build higher awareness of its needs and services. No cuts are currently planned, but additional cuts “may need to be considered,” she said.
“We’ve been here since 1974,” Haney said. “Since we became a standalone transit authority, the community doesn’t know what it’s like not to have public transportation.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.