The agency has not ruled
out the option of further appeals to voters.
By ANGIE SCHMITT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN — Further route reductions will follow the defeat of the Western Reserve Transit Authority’s 0.25 percent, countywide sales tax, said Director Jim Ferraro.
After the issue’s loss — with 57 percent voting against it — during Tuesday’s primary election, Ferraro met with his staff to discuss the transit authority’s options in the face of a projected a $400,000 shortfall this year.
Preliminary suggestions for reconciling the agency’s finances include eliminating or reducing the regularity of as many as six of WRTA’s 16 routes, said Ferraro. Further staff cuts, another sales tax appeal or fare increases are also under discussion.
“Our immediate plan is to reduce costs and that’s going to involve service reductions,” Ferraro said. “We’re service based; the only way you reduce cost is to reduce service and our employees.”
WRTA has no immediate plans to return to the ballot but Ferraro said he has not ruled out the possibility. Board members are disappointed but cautiously optimistic about the results of the election, he said. About 38,500 voters cast ballots in favor of the sales tax, about 50,600 against.
“It’s pretty tough,” Ferraro said. “But we feel comfortable for our first time at this that 44 [percent] or 45 percent of the county think that public transportation is important.”
The transit authority reduced its service about 50 percent last year under budget pressures caused by reduced state support and mounting energy costs, Ferraro said. Sixteen employees were let go and night and weekend service was eliminated.
Upcoming route reductions will be evenly dispersed throughout the four quadrants of the city and in outlying areas, said Ferraro. A fare increase would most likely be limited to the authority’s Dial-A-Ride program. The program transports seniors and the disabled at a cost of $2 each way.
The difficult process of deciding where cuts will be made will continue throughout the coming weeks, Ferraro said.
“You can’t operate at a deficit,” said Ferraro. “We’ve got a little bit of time to shore some things up over the next few months.”