Increase Sought For Wheeling’s Bus Levy

City Council may soon ask taxpayers to increase Wheeling’s contribution to the area’s public transit system by 15 percent to offset increased operating costs and decreased federal funding.

Wheeling’s current excess levy that supports the Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority is set to expire June 30, 2015. An ordinance putting a new levy on the ballot is up for first reading when council meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the City-County Building.

If City Council approves the measure at its Feb. 4 meeting, the levy would go before voters during the May 13 primary election.

The new levy rate per $100 of assessed value would increase by 15 percent to 4.08 cents for Class I property, 8.16 cents for Class II property and 16.32 cents for Class IV property. The owner of a home assessed at $100,000 would see an annual increase of about $6.60 in his or her property taxes.

The higher levy – which would remain in effect through June 30, 2018 – would generate an estimated $1.23 million annually, though the number could fluctuate based on property assessments. The city’s budget for the OVRTA excess levy for the current fiscal year is about $1.05 million.

Executive Director Tom Hvizdos said during a board meeting last month the authority would ask the communities it serves to approve 15-percent increases to their levies.

Despite a 5.4-percent increase in OVRTA’s total ridership to more than 318,000 for the period from October 2012 through September, the transit system faces tough financial days ahead due to federal budget cuts, employee health insurance costs and other operating cost increases. Eight buses in the authority’s fleet also need to be replaced, Hvizdos said.

The authority will be operating at a deficit by 2017 at its current funding level, he told board members last month.

Benwood City Council recently voted to put a replacement levy on the ballot there, but only at an increase of 5 percent, not the 15 percent OVRTA is requesting.