Oregon Mayor Mike Seferian, who is against the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority’s (TARTA) proposed .5 percent sales tax to fund public transportation, wants TARTA to revisit its request for the tax hike.
“Retailers across our region are still battling a recession,” stated Seferian in a prepared statement that was read at an Oregon council meeting last Monday. “This proposal would only succeed in making it harder for our local businesses to remain competitive. Our sales tax is already higher than many of our neighboring counties. This increase could force customers to look elsewhere.”
The half cent sales tax would replace property tax levies that currently fund TARTA.
The nine member communities in TARTA, including Toledo, Maumee, Perrysburg, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania, Sylvania Township, Rossford, Spencer Township, and Waterville, must first support the Lucas County commissioners’ recent resolution to become a member of the public transit service before the sales tax proposal can be put on the November 2 ballot. The proposal would allow TARTA to provide countywide service.
The sales tax would bring in $25.6 million annually compared to the current $17.2 million collected from two property tax levies of 2.5-mills.
If voters support the measure, the county’s sales tax rate would increase to 7.25 percent, the highest in the region, and the second highest in the state. Wood and Ottawa counties have a 6.5 percent sales tax.
Seferian urged member communities to examine drawbacks of the proposal before supporting the sales tax hike.
“I don’t see this proposal as a benefit to either Oregon businesses or Oregon residents,” said Seferian. “TARTA and the communities currently being served need to find a different way of solving their revenue and service problems.”
Steven Dunaway, of S. Coy Road, said at the council meeting that he expected TARTA to continue asking for an increase in the sales tax to fund operations.
“We can only do this in half percent increments, starting now, the way I understand it from the governor’s office. But when they repeal property taxes that the people in TARTA pay, a half percent is only the start because TARTA has already said it’s not enough to run TARTA,” said Dunaway.
“So right away, we’re going to be at a wonderful disadvantage with Wood County because our sales taxes are going to go up and we’re going to put our businesses in a bad light. I don’t think the population density in this town warrants TARTA,” he said, adding that the weight of the buses would deteriorate city roads, and increase pollution.
“I don’t think a sales tax increase during a very severe recession is warranted when we’re asking government to watch the dollars a little more carefully,” he said.
Dunaway, who said he lives 1.5 minutes from Wood County, added that he and many of his neighbors are prepared to secede from Lucas County if the sales tax increase passes.
“I understand from the board of elections that I have until August 19 to get something on the ballot. There is precedent in the state of Ohio to do. I’m prepared, along with a lot of my neighbors, to circulate a petition to secede from this county,” said Dunaway.
He thanked Seferian for his comments in opposition to the proposed tax increase.
Seferian said he would communicate the city’s opposition to the nine member communities in TARTA. His comments will be hand delivered, with additional comments, to Sylvania, which tabled a vote on the measure until a committee of the whole on June 21.
“They will get the message. We understood them to be possibly our biggest ally in this fight,” Seferian said of Sylvania.
Seferian also said that all seven members of city council support his opposition to the sales tax increase.