By LOU WILIN
A sales tax for transportation services in Allen County sped to easy approval on Tuesday: 74 percent of county voters said yes.
The 0.1 percent, 10-year sales tax will keep the Allen County Regional Transit Authority (ACRTA) operating. The tax received 7,433 votes in favor to 2,593 votes against. Results from the Allen County Board of Elections are unofficial and include absentee votes.
Without the tax, ACRTA would not survive, said Executive Director Shelia Haney.
The sales tax will 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 was eligible to receive grants of up to $1.2 million for operations, but it first had to raise $1.2 million.
It has raised 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 has been able to raise about $800,000 per year, it has received about $800,000 in federal grants, Haney said.
To make ends meet, ACRTA cut about one-third of its services — transportation on nights and weekends and three of its nine fixed bus routes. Those services will be restored with the sales tax approved, she said.
Haney called it a “workforce issue.”
Many second- and third-shift workers had used the buses to get to work until the services were canceled.
Elderly and disabled people and special needs children also depend on ACRTA for transportation.
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.
Send an E-mail to Lou Wilin