LIMA — With two months remaining before residents vote on the Allen County Regional Transit Authority’s sales tax levy, the RTA kick-offed its media campaign meant to raise awareness of how the community benefits from public transportation.
If voters approve the levy, Allen County’s sales tax would increase by 0.1 percent, which would raise roughly $1.5 million annually for the beleaguered organization. The county’s current sales tax rate is 6.75 percent on every purchase.
“We all benefit from public transportation whether we use the services or not,” RTA Executive Director Shelia Haney said. “We are providing over a thousand worker rides a month. Those workers pay taxes that add to the Allen County tax base.”
During its kick-off event held Wednesday morning, the RTA also announced its three campaign chairs — Steve Horton, Bev Beery and Esther Baldridge.
Beery said she joined the campaign committee because of the service RTA provides to the community and highlighted how the many individuals rely on the service for errands and work.
“I see such a need, and I feel very blessed when I drive my car to work every morning,” Beery said.
The RTA is asking for the increase due to ongoing financial issues. In 2018, the bus service nixed fixed routes on nights on weekends to deal with shortfalls in federal funding. The move has since decreased ridership in 2018 by close to 43 percent.
Since federal grants rely on ridership to determine funding levels, a major decrease in rider numbers means the RTA is set to see operational revenue drop if the levy fails.
The RTA tried to pass a similar levy in 2017. The primary difference that could benefit the RTA’s updated May levy is that the RTA is asking for much less due to the State of Ohio adding more flexibility to sales tax rate increments.
The RTA sales tax levy will be the only countywide issue on the May 7 ballot. While Lima residents are the largest beneficiary of the bus service, Haney highlighted the number of trips provided to other areas of Allen County through RTA’s Upflift service during the kick-off. They include 1,550 trips in Delphos, 1,303 trips in Bluffton, 927 trips in Harrod, 835 trips in Elida, 468 trips in Shawnee, 430 trips in Spencerville and 419 trips in Beaverdam.
Over the next two months, the community will see more RTA-focused advertisements on major media platforms. The RTA is also planning to canvass regions to ensure enough voters come out in support of the bus service.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.