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Director urges 15-cent raise in bus fares

Published Oct. 16, 2005

Bus riders would pay more but property owners wouldn't under a proposal by the county bus system's executive director. Larry C. Newman, executive director of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA), is seeking a 15-cent fare increase, saying bus riders should pay a larger share of the cost.

The typical PSTA rider pays 17 percent of the cost of his or her trip. Subsidies from property taxes and the state and federal governments make up the rest.

"Given that the base fare has remained stable since October 1985, the users of the system should be asked to pick up more of the cost," Newman said.

At the board meeting Feb. 28, Newman plans to recommend these increases in the PSTA's fares: Base fare to 75 cents from 60 cents.

Elderly/mobility-impaired to 35 from 30 cents.

Student fare to 40 cents from 35 cents.

Weekly passes to $8 from $6.25 The cost of transfers and monthly passes would not change.

Under Newman's proposal, the tax rate that property owners pay to PSTA would not change.

The authority receives a property tax of .5743 mills. A mill is equivalent to $1 in taxes for each $1,000 of assessed, non-exempt taxable property value.

That means the owner of a $60,000 house with a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $20.10 to the PSTA. The tax is included in the annual payment to the county.

Newman said his proposal is "a matter of equitability" because the PSTA's goals call for fares to account for 30 percent of costs, almost double the current 17 percent.

Most members of the bus system's board said they haven't decided if they will support the fare increase. They want time to read Newman's proposal.

But two board members said they want to keep the millage rate the same.

If the board endorses Newman's plan Feb. 28, at least one public hearing would be scheduled before the board takes final action.

The increase probably would take effect when the 1991 budget year begins Oct. 1.