WRTA renewal levy wins approval

By Ashley Luthern



The road ahead looks smooth for the Western Reserve Transit Authority after 60 percent of voters approved 0.25-percent sales-tax renewal.

The transit authority serves Mahoning County and relies on sales-tax revenue for about 70 percent of its annual budget, which was $10.7 million in 2012. The remainder of the budget is generated from fare-box revenues and federal grants.

The sales-tax measure was first approved in 2008 as a five-year measure that continues through 2013. WRTA will begin to collect on the sales-tax renewal approved Tuesday in 2014.

“This gives us a chance to take a look at how we’re going to approach taking care of people in areas that for a long time have been without transportation,” WRTA Executive Director Jim Ferraro said.

The transit authority plans to offer more Dial-A-Rides, which use vans to provide curb-to-curb service for small numbers of people, similar to a cab company, he said.

“We’re being flooded with calls for the Dial-A-Rides, and we must look at routes that haven’t been as productive and basically satisfy needs of the entire county,” Ferraro said.

Another focus for WRTA is continuing work on its downtown Federal Station.

“We did a lot of work of outside of Federal Station and now the inside of the station will change dramatically,” he said. “We’ve been piecing it together, and now we’ll complete it. I don’t think people will recognize it.”

WRTA has awarded an architectural contract, but has not chosen a general contractor yet. Ferraro said plans include changing the station’s entrance, moving security to the station’s center and separating WRTA ticket sales from Greyhound.

“There will be a new floor, new ceilings, new furniture and obviously restroom work — that has been a longstanding problem for us,” Ferraro said.

WRTA has collected the following sales-tax revenue: $4.2 million in 2009, $6.9 million in 2010 and $7.5 million in 2011. Ferraro said he feels confident that revenue will hold steady or increase as the economy improves.

“Basically, we went from a little over $5 million to $7.5 million, and we know where we’re at and we stay within that budget. We will continue to do everything we think public transit can offer Mahoning County,” he said.

The other two county-wide renewals on Tuesday’s ballot also were approved by voters.

About 65 percent of voters gave approval to a 0.1-mill five-year renewal tuberculosis prevention and control levy, which was first enacted in 1976.

The levy generates about $176,540 a year and is used to fund a TB clinic at 496 Glenwood Ave. on Youngstown’s South Side. It costs the owner of a $100,000 home $1.20 annually.

Mahoning County did 2,262 tuberculosis screenings last year, according to Vindicator files.

About 73 percent of voters supported a 0.5-mill five-year renewal Children Services Board levy, originally approved in 1982, that generates about $1.3 million annually for general operating expenses of the child welfare agency.

The levy makes up about 10 percent of the board’s annual revenue and costs the owner of a $100,000 home about $9.08 a year.

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