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TARTA Sales Tax Could Lead to Double Taxation

2011 Could Mean Big Bill for Property Owners

Voters seeking property tax relief later this year with a proposal to switch TARTA to a sales tax in November may find themselves paying the freight on both fronts in 2011.

Lucas County Commissioners on Tuesday became the latest local government to sign onto the switch. The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) is seeking approval from all nine member communities in order to put a sales tax on the ballot.

The plan would hike Lucas County’s sales tax to 7.25 percent, the second-highest in the state, but it would eventually replace a pair of property taxes that currently funds the local transit authority to the tune of $17.2 million per year.

The half-penny sales tax would replace 2.5 mills of property taxation. TARTA is the lone remaining transit authority in Ohio to exist on property taxation. The sales tax would generate an estimated $25.6 million annually.

Toledo, Ottawa Hills, Sylvania, Sylvania Township, Spencer Township, Waterville, Maumee, Perrysburg, and Rossford all must approve the sales tax switch by an August 5 filing deadline in order for it to make the November ballot. TARTA is asking for such approval by the end of June.

However, some elected officials in Sylvania and Sylvania Township warn the new TARTA tax structure means home and business owners would be forced to pay both property and sales tax for the transit agency during 2011 while the transition in funding takes place.

Sylvania City Councilman Doug Haynam asked during a presentation last month if TARTA officials would consider a property tax rollback next year if the sales tax is approved by voters. He recently received a letter from the transit authority’s general manager with the answer: no.

Consider yourselves warned, because that same response has not become a permanent part of TARTA’s presentation to its member communities as its leaders ask for a resolution of support.

So far, only Spencer Twp. Trustees and Ottawa Hills Village Council have given their blessing.

The opposition already is emerging to the idea. Automotive and appliance sales would suffer from such a sales tax increase, argue some prominent local business owners.

Both industries recently needed help from federal stimulus programs—the “Cash for Clunkers” and “Cash for Appliances” efforts. Countywide sales tax collections have been greatly hurt by a downturn in the sales of such big-ticket items in recent years.

It usually takes a lot for local business owners to stand up and speak out—so the idea deserves some further inquiry.

Rest assured, long-time opponents in Perrysburg and Rossford will do their homework. They have been vocal critics of TARTA funding and service in the past—and will continue to do so.