Since that time, state law has changed and member communities have the choice of 'opting out' of TARTA service. Previously, the only way a community could leave TARTA service was if board members representing all the members voted unanimously to allow them to do so. At our March primary, Perrysburg voted to leave TARTA.
Of course, TARTA is now looking at ways to get money to replace the property taxes they were getting from Perrysburg.
If TARTA were to collect a half-cent sales tax within Lucas County, they estimate they would receive $25.6 million each year. Their current levies generate only $16.7 million. That's a 53% increase in taxes they'd be getting.
Money is definitely one of the reasons they want a sales tax.
But there's another reason that may be even more attractive to TARTA. With a sales tax, they never have to go back to the voters for approval.
With two property tax levies, TARTA must present them for approval to the voters every four years. This gives voters the ability to judge whether or not TARTA is meeting their needs and using their tax dollars wisely. TARTA must continually justify their actions, decisions and spending - and be accountable to the people they serve in order to earn a yes vote on the levies.
It also means they must mount a campaign with advertising and outreach to convince the voters of their value and request their votes. This costs money, too. And TARTA has a record of misusing public dollars for that purpose. In fact, their actions resulted in a new state law to criminalize what TARTA General Manager James Gee did.
TARTA has had other financial problems as well. In January, the Auditor of State declared their books 'unauditable' because they'd failed to supply all the data necessary to complete their 2010 audit. When this became public, Gee claimed the items needed were "minor." But they were far from minor:
It's not 'minor' to be missing your accounts receivable support for your federal operating assistance account.Gee then made a bunch of excuses for his failure to provide the required documents. But no matter what lame excuse he came up with, it was clear that he was still to blame.
It's not 'minor' to be unable to produce a listing of your fixed asset purchases and disposals.
It's not 'minor' to be missing your "Most recent (2011) internal Balance Sheet and Income Statement."
It's not 'minor' to be unable to produce - for 13 months! - your listing of contracts over $25,000 and the requests for proposals for all contracts over $50,000.
It's not 'minor' to be missing your list of disposals purchased with federal dollars. In fact, lack of the audit information on the federal items could result in loss of federal income.
It's not 'minor' to be missing details of your legal expenses, details about fluctuations in various accounts, reports for claims and litigation against the agency, or your complete check registers.
With all this going on, it's no wonder he and the board don't want to appear before the public to ask for their property tax levies to be renewed.
So they're going to see if they can obtain a permanent source of funding that will give them a 53% increase in revenue.
They do not deserve to be rewarded with additional funds.
*** For more on the financial difference between paying for a sales tax versus a property tax, please read this.