By LOU WILIN
Allen County voters are being asked to approve a 0.1 percent, 10-year sales tax for transportation services on the May 7 primary ballot.
If the tax does not pass, the Allen County Regional Transit Authority (ACRTA) will not survive, said Executive Director Shelia Haney.
The sales tax would generate an estimated $1.2 million per year, offsetting funding reductions of about $800,000 per year — or about one-third of ACRTA’s operating budget — since year-end 2016.
Since President Trump took office, the terms of federal grants for ACRTA were changed, Haney said. ACRTA can receive grants of up to $1.2 million for operations, but it first must raise $1.2 million.
It raises about $800,000 per year by charging fees for its services; leasing office space in its building to businesses; selling fuel to nonprofits; various vending activities; selling lottery tickets; and collecting a commission on Greyhound bus tickets it sells, Haney said.
Because ACRTA is able to raise about $800,000 per year, it gets about $800,000 in federal grants, Haney said.
To make ends meet, ACRTA has cut about one-third of its services — transportation on nights and weekends and three of its nine fixed bus routes. Those services would be restored if the sales tax is approved, she said.
Haney called it a “workforce issue.”
“We hurt a lot of second- and third-shifters (workers) when we shut down our evening shift,” Haney said. “A lot of people didn’t realize that. It’s a quality-of-life issue.”
Elderly and disabled people and special needs children also depend on ACRTA for transportation.
“What a lot of people don’t realize — and we’ve been trying to communicate to the community — is we’re not about just the fixed-route buses that they see,” she said.
A fleet of 19 vans provides door-to-door service, called Uplift, for elderly, disabled and special needs people in Allen County. Nearly 1,500 special needs students are driven to school monthly by Uplift.
Schools in Elida, Spencerville, Shawnee and Lima all contract with Uplift to transport their special needs students.
Elderly and disabled people and veterans are taken by Uplift to medical appointments and other destinations.
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