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Survey: Most respondents favor sales-tax renewal to fund WRTA



Published: Mon, August 13, 2012 @ 12:02 a.m.

By Ashley Luthern

aluthern@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A majority of people surveyed by a marketing firm say they support the renewal of a 0.25-percent sales tax that funds Western Reserve Transit Authority.

WRTA hired Burges & Burges Strategists, a Euclid-based marketing company, about two months ago for a four-month contract costing $22,500, said Marianne Vaughn, WRTA director of finance.

The firm administered the surveys at a cost of $3,300, Vaughn said.

“We needed to see where we made strides and where we had fallen down,” said Jim Ferraro, WRTA executive director.

The online survey drew 312 responses, and 62.5 percent said they would support the sales-tax renewal on the fall ballot, according to records.

Of people from Youngs-town who took the survey, about 73 percent said they support the renewal. The two highest-represented suburbs in the survey were Boardman and Austintown, and the percentages of people favoring renewal were about 60 percent and 56 percent, respectively.

Burges reported that a minority of people shared negative feelings about WRTA, mainly that WRTA primarily serves the inner city and that buses look underutilized and empty.

A telephone poll conducted by AMM Political Strategies, which was hired by Burges, surveyed 600 people July 13-14. Respondents started at 54.5 percent for the issue, 12.3 percent against and 33.2 percent undecided.

Then, respondents were given seven statements and asked if those statements were a “very good reason” or “not a good reason” to support the sales-tax renewal.

For example, two of the statements were, “The issue would maintain current services for seniors, people with disabilities and workers who need to get to work, appointments and shopping” and “this ballot issue is a renewal and will not raise taxes.” After both statements, 82.3 percent of respondents said they were a very good reason to support the renewal.

After going through all seven statements, respondents were then asked how they will vote, with 79.8 percent for the renewal, 10.8 percent against and 9.3 percent undecided.

Ferraro said the sales-tax renewal is vital to WRTA and makes up 70 percent of the budget, with the remaining being funded by fare-box revenues and federal grants.

WRTA sales-tax revenue has grown since 2009, when it collected about $4.2 million, to $6.9 million in 2010 and $7.5 million in 2011.

Revenue for the first five months of this year, $3.2 million, surpasses that period from 2011. The transit authority’s 2012 budget is about $10.7 million, Vaughn has said.


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