Proposed budget plan could hurt PARTA


A PARTA bus drives by the M.A.C. Center on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. 

Hannah Coleman

Transit agencies in Ohio are bracing for the loss of millions of dollars in their budgets starting in July. The financial impact comes from the state no longer collecting the sales and use tax on Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCO). Sales taxes, among other entities, help fund transit agencies on a local level.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich released a state budget plan last month that would cut funds for regional transit agencies if passed.

In Northeast Ohio — particularly Portage and Summit counties — it is uncertain how local transit systems might be impacted by the potential changes. 

“We will be affected, we don’t know the exact amount yet. We are going to wait and see if the budget is first approved,” said Frank Hairston, manager and EEO director of PARTA. “Our folks are taking a look at what might be cut. There won’t be any immediate changes.”

While Kasich’s plan is not concrete, regional transits agencies, like PARTA, have already begun to prepare for the financial blow. Numbers are subject to change, but it is predicted the Cleveland RTA will lose about $18 million in funding, according to

The budget plan offers temporary funding for Ohio transit agencies to help them with the change. The budget plan offers $49 million to be provided to 80 counties and eight transit agencies to replace revenue loss. The plan also offers $158 million that will be delivered in a one-time payment to help cushion the blow of the cut to the budget.

“If you look at the budget, he’s giving us three years of monies to ween us off, as he called it, of the sales tax money,” Hairston said. “So yes, we are looking into some possible, what I call ‘cash cows,’ some new revenue streams.”

PARTA has nothing concrete planned for alternative revenue streams.

“We are in the beginning process of talking about what we are looking at for grants and looking at other possibilities. We don’t know what might get cut and what might not get cut,” Hairston said. “Until this budget is done, we are sitting here anxiously, waiting for what the government has rolled out.”

But Kasich’s one-time help will only hold most of the transit agencies over until 2019. After that, it is up to them to find revenue elsewhere.

“Transit agencies are appreciative of the additional funding that he has proposed, but it doesn’t appreciate the cutting of funds that are going to cripple the transit agencies, especially larger ones like Cleveland RTA,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director at All Aboard Ohio. “We are very unhappy.”

Prendergast describes Kasich’s plan as a “partial fix.” Transit agencies have only been benefitting from the sales tax brought by MCO’s but they have been pushing for more funding from the state since then. All Aboard Ohio released a press release in 2016 calling for Kasich to provide more funding and what they are receiving is less.

PARTA is meeting with state legislation to work on a plan to support its future.

“We have met with our state representative Kathleen Clyde, met with state senator John Eklund and state representative Frank LaRose. They talked about the cuts and their ideas and let us know what it would mean to our budget,” Hairston said. “Losing almost $300,000 a year is quite a hit to our budget.”

Hannah Coleman is the parking and transportation reporter, contact her at [email protected].