Monday, May 28, 2001

Money issues on Butler ballot

Sales tax hike to fund bus service

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        HAMILTON — Butler County residents will be asked to approve at least two county-wide money issues on the Nov. 6 ballot — a .25 percent sales tax increase to pay for bus service and a 1.3 mill replacement levy to provide services for the elderly.

        The Butler County Regional Transit Authority is asking residents to increase the county's sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5.75 percent to continue bus service in the county beyond Dec. 31.

        This month's failure of the same issue has forced the BCRTA to cut hours on it's Dial A Ride Service, said Amy Terango, the two-year-old agency's general manager.

        Beginning June 1 the service will only be available to Hamilton residents instead of anyone in the county. And instead of being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the service will only operate weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

        “It really becomes an issue of do we want to have public transportation,” Ms. Terango said.

        “We lose our major source of federal and state funding at the end of the year.”

        If approved, Ms. Terango estimates the sales tax would generate about $8 million annually.

        The authority's budget this year is about $7.9 million. Should the levy fail in November the eight fixed routes in Hamilton, Fairfield, Middletown and Oxford would end, leaving only contract services.

        Sales tax in the county will likely increase this year re gardless of the outcome of the BCRTA levy.

        County commissioners plan to vote next month on increasing the sales tax either .25 percent or .5 percent to pay for development and other improvements. Ohio law allows counties to impose up to 1 percent in local sales tax without voter approval.

        Residents now pay 5.5 percent in sales tax, including .5 percent imposed by commissioners, which represents about 25 percent of the county general fund.

        Voters will also be asked to approve a replacement levy to provide services to Butler County's elderly.

        A one-mill levy first approved in 1996 that raises almost $5.3 million annually is scheduled to expire Dec. 31.

        If approved, the 1.3 mill replacement levy would generate $7.9 million each of the next five years for the Elderly Services Program. Collections would begin next January, said Bob Logan, executive director of the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio.

        That money would be used for services and as leverage for matching state and federal grants, Mr. Logan said.

        “We want to be considerate (of) and prudent (in our spending) to the taxpayers in Butler County,” Mr. Logan said.

        “We are using some carry-over funds and grants to provide $9.3 million in services this year."

        Residents who are 60 years or older are eligible to receive services on a sliding-fee scaled, based on income.

        Taxes on a $100,000 home would increase $15.25 from $24.56 now to $39.81 if approved, according to the Butler County auditor's office.


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