The Butler County (Ohio) Regional Transit Authority (BCRTA) will shut down in January unless county commissioners levy a proposed sales tax and local emergency funding is made available.
Although the BCRTA, serving a county of 340,000, has only been in operation since 1999, it experienced a tremendous amount of growth early on. Initial operating figures for the fixed-route and dial-a-ride system totaled $100,000, and that number skyrocketed to $6.5 million in 2001.
“We don’t have a designated funding source,” said General Manager Amy Terango. “We are a very new transit system.”
In the beginning, BCRTA leveraged federal and state funding, as well as local partnerships, including the county. The county opted out in 2001, which led to a financial crisis for BCRTA, said Terango.
Hoping to raise the necessary money, the transit board placed an issue on the May 2001 ballot for a one-quarter of 1% sales tax, which it lost.
As a result of losing, BCRTA made significant cutbacks, eliminating the countywide dial-a-ride service in addition to laying off 22 employees. After a public outcry, the tax issue was placed on the ballot again in November, but was defeated 48% to 52%
“It was so frustrating because we won in all the areas that had fixed-route service,” said Terango.
After the second defeat, Terango sought emergency funds from the county to stay afloat. “If we didn’t receive those, we were going to start to shut down the system,” she said.
BCRTA did obtain several commitments from local cities, including $100,000 from Miami University in Hamilton, but is still waiting for a commitment from the city of Fairfield, from which it hopes to receive $85,000.
“This money will help us to wait out the results of the vote by the county commissioners on a 0.5% sales tax,” said Terango.
If the vote is successful, $1.1 million was earmarked by the commissioners for dial-a-ride service, she said. Terango has tried to educate the commissioners on the value of the fixed-route service, but said the process has been difficult.