By Brandy Jones

SORTA External Affairs

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) Board of Trustees held a special meeting Wednesday to turn down a proposal to place a Hamilton County sales tax on this November’s ballot.

However, Kreg Keesee, SORTA board chair, said Tuesday, “Our projected operating and capital deficits are real. Our bus system is unsustainable.’’

To balance its budget, the board will have to reduce services and expenses, and likely propose a fare increase to Cincinnati City Council, he said.

“It has become clear to me that we have not reached a consensus within the board and the community to vote to present Hamilton County voters with a sales tax option to address the significant financial and operational needs of the Metro bus system,’’ Keesee said. “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 Wednesday, but we will not have a vote to put a levy on the ballot this fall.

“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.’’

The board must now turn its attention to two very important items, Keesee said. They are achieving a balanced budget with the least possible

impact on riders and to continue to communicate, build consensus and further refine a plan for how Metro can connect people and places and drive economic growth, he said.

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