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COTA to put sales tax on November ballot

The sales tax increase of one-quarter of one percent would be a 10-year temporary tax. For 10 years the proposed tax would double the permanent quarter-percent sales tax that currently provides COTA with about $44 million a year. COTA president Bill Lhota says current funding is not enough to serve a growing community.

"We need longer hours, we need more buses on our existing routes," Lhota says. "We've got a serious overcrowding situation on many of our buses. We need to go to the places we don't go, such as Rickenbacker (Airport) and the new hospital in Dublin. We need more cross-town routes so people don't have to come downtown to go from one suburb to the other."

Lhota says the expansion plan addresses most of those problems. It would increase the number of buses on existing routes, and add new routes to areas such as Dublin and Hilliard that have seen large growth in recent years. The plan would also expand service hours to accommodate more afternoon and evening riders. Lhota says the plan includes an increase services for disabled people by 50 percent by the year 2020. But several members of the COTA board who endorsed the proposal expressed concern over whether voters are willing to approve any new tax.

Board member William Anthony says taxes are never an easy sell to voters. He says the importance of taxes in many high-profile campaigns this year will only complicate things.

"It's a tax, and (it's hard) whenever you put a tax on the levy," Anthony says. "look what happened to the COSI levy. I thought that made perfectly good sense, and it went down bad. A lot of the elected officials were for it, but the voters voted it right down. We just have to make sure that doesn't happen this time."

If passed, the sales tax would go into effect in April and run through 2017. Lhota says the board will consider future ballot issues if the tax fails.