The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting tomorrow at 9 a.m., but will not consider placing a Hamilton County sales tax on this November’s ballot.
The communication from SORTA Board Chair Kreg Keesee to the SORTA Board this afternoon: “It has become clear to me that we have not reached an appropriate consensus within the Board and the community to vote tomorrow to present Hamilton County voters with a sales tax option to address the significant financial and operational needs of the Metro bus system. I do not believe that the current environment provides a clear path to victory at the polls even if consensus had been reached. With that in mind, we will still have a meeting tomorrow, but we will not have a vote to put a levy on the ballot this fall. I wish that the circumstances we face were different. Our Board has worked hard to get us to a place where we could be successful. I am deeply disappointed, primarily for the riders and the potential riders of the Metro bus system, but also to the community, for the broader economic development and quality of life impacts for our region. We need to move quickly to prepare for next year as it is obvious from our financials that we cannot wait much longer.There is little question that we, as a Board, must now turn our attention to two very important items:1. Achieving a balanced budget next year with the least possible impact on our riders.This will not be easy. We will, of course, look to use reserves where possible, but it is likely that to meet our statutory obligations to balance our budget we must reduce services and expenses, and likely propose a fare increase to Cincinnati City Council for consideration. Please recall that the comprehensive financial and operational review by EY (Ernst & Young) affirmed the assessment of the SORTA professional staff. Our projected operating and capital deficits are real. Our bus system is unsustainable. 2. Continue to communicate, build consensus, and further refine our plan for how Metro can connect people and places, drive economic growth and expand quality of life choices in our community.This is our task. This is why we have been appointed to the SORTA Board. We must build a robust coalition starting with our riders and grass roots support along with business, civic and labor leaders and our important partners at Cincinnati City Hall and on the Board of Hamilton County Commissioners. The fundamentals of our plan remain: significant reinvestment in our transit system, investment in the most important transportation infrastructure priorities that our system relies upon, and a reduction in the earnings tax.I pledge to work with each of you and the SORTA staff in the coming weeks to develop plans of action to address these two important items. We will discuss these issues tomorrow and at our regularly scheduled Board meetings going forward. I look forward to working with you in the coming months to reach the broad consensus referenced above and to ask, in the nearest possible future, the voters of this community to support a better way to fund this community’s bus system.”