OVRTA Wants 15 Percent Levy Hike

The Ohio Valley Regional Transit Authority plans to ask taxpayers in the communities it serves for a 15 percent increase on the authority’s three-year transit levy on the 2014 primary ballot in May.

Board members approved the increase Wednesday in a 6-1 vote with board member Larry Schmitt voting against the increase. OVRTA officials expect the increase to generate an additional $192,000 per year. It would cost an additional 55 cents every month for the next three years for a home with an assessed value of $100,000. The current levy is due to expire June 30, 2015.

OVRTA Executive Director Tom Hvizdos said the authority has seen increase in operation costs of 4 percent annually for the past three years and a 5.5 percent increase annually five years ago. If costs continue to go up by about 4 percent, he said, OVRTA will begin to run a deficit beginning fiscal year 2017. The board would then experience about a $264,000 shortfall by 2019. The shortfall could grow to about $1 million if costs rise by 5.5 percent, he said.

Hvizdos also said there are eight buses that will be eligible to be replaced in the next coming years, noting the vehicles are beginning to wear down. Hvizdos estimated it would cost about $1.2 million to replace the eight buses. Although OVRTA has about $2 million in reserves, he said those funds would be depleted through increased operating costs and the replacement of buses if the levy rate does not increase.

With the uncertainty of increased health care costs and the stagnation of federal funds, Hvizdos told the board the needed money will likely fall to the community’s hands.

The Eastern Ohio Regional Transit Authority also approved an increase from the existing 2 mill to a 2.5 mill levy to be put on the May ballot at a Tuesday board meeting.