LIMA — The Allen County Regional Transit Authority will most likely receive some additional state dollars over the next two years from the recently passed state transportation budget, but the question of “how much” won’t be answered until June at the earliest due to state officials needing time to solidify budget details.
That will be at least a month after the May 7 primary where the ACRTA is asking voters for a sales tax increase of 0.1%. The increase amounts to paying 2 cents on a $20 purchase and would raise $1.5 million annually for the transit authority’s operational budget.
“We do not anticipate any additional funds for operations as part of the new state budget. It is imperative that we pass the local transit levy in May which will give us the funds required to match federal operating grants,” said ACRTA Executive Director Shelia Haney. If the public transportation agency is able to pass its levy, Haney said the ACRTA still would continue to apply for grants, state or otherwise.
The transportation budget saw a major increase in the state’s total public transit allocation — doubling it to $70 million. It’s a safe bet that Allen County will be one of Ohio’s 61 public transit authorities that could see a portion of those increased funds, according to Matt Bruning of the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Bruning noted that unlike gas tax revenues, which have a clear-cut funding model set into law, public transit does not use an easy-to-use formula that is replicated each year. Instead, the Ohio Department of Transportation varies how much funds go to each local transit authority largely based on need.
“It’s hard to identify a trend line,” Bruning said.
Haney said the transit authority already applies for state flex funds every year from the state to be used on a variety of capital projects. The ACRTA used state funds in 2017 to purchase six vehicles to add to its bus fleet.
With a budgeted increase, Haney said those state funds could become more readily available, but without consistency, they most likely won’t solve the transit authority’s larger issue of stretching local funds and matching its federal grant dollars.
Another issue, Haney said, is if the RTA were to utilize grants for operational use, the agency would still need to provide a 50% local match, which is hard to come by without local funds being ready available.
The ACRTA does gather local funds through a variety of means, such as working with Greyhound, renting out floors and selling food and gas, but most of its revenue comes from federal funding. In general, Bruning said public transit systems in Ohio are funded primarily through local dollars.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.