LIMA — A shrinking ridership due to cuts in services and potential “domino effect” that could lead to the eventual shuttering of its doors has caused the Allen County Regional Transit Authority to consider a second levy attempt this upcoming spring.
The county bus service has considered the idea of another ballot initiative off and on for the last year ever since it failed to convince the public to agree to a quarter percent increase in sales tax to pay for its services during the 2017 November election, but Executive Director Sheila Haney said without the injection of funds — a potential $1.2 million annually raised by a tenth of a percentage sales tax increase — ACRTA will face more cuts and receive less grant revenue due to decreased ridership.
“We’re right back to where we were,” Haney said. “If we don’t go back for another levy, we’ll be forced to cut additional services.”
The ACRTA board of trustees has yet to decide on how much the agency will be asking for as it awaits the results of a business plan currently being created by Clearvision Consulting, a business management consultant ACRTA brought in from Kansas City.
Haney said the outside company will be crafting a document able to illustrate what finances the public bus service needs to be able to meet community demands. The consulting group arrived in Lima at the start of the week and is expected to complete the plan before the board’s Nov. 6 meeting. At that time, the board will decide whether to ask for a .1 percent sales tax increase, which would allow ACRTA to re-initiate weekend and night fixed routes, or a .2 percent sales tax increase, which could lead to an expansion of services countywide.
Since January, Haney said the agency has been trying to exhaust its revenue-generating options to make up for the expected grant shortfalls caused by the one-quarter decrease in ridership seen since cuts in fixed bus routes were made at the beginning of the year. Examples include contracting with local school districts and manufacturing companies, renting out office space and continuing partnerships with non-profits to provide fuel and with Greyhound to provide a regional hub for the long-distance bus service.
“The RTA has not done a business plan before, so we were looking at that. We thought that it was a good tool to show the community that we have looked at every avenue,” Haney said. “We’re not looking to the community until we’ve tried all the other options.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.