Confusion over transit authority referendum - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Confusion over transit authority referendum

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St. Joseph County voters will head to the polls Tuesday for a special election.  They will vote on a referendum that would create a Regional Transportation Authority for northern Indiana and possibly raise your taxes.  Many people we spoke with today heard about the referendum, but don't know what's in it.  There are discrepancies over who will be affected and how much it will cost.

"I either walk or take the bus," said Transpo Bus Rider Thomas McKeon.

So when he heard about a bill that would improve the safety, quality, and efficiency of these Transpo buses, McKeon

"I'm in favor of improving the general welfare and that's part of it," said McKeon.

The only problem is that this bill doesn't have anything to do with Transpo at all.

"We did not feel it was to our advantage to be a part of that," said Transpo General Manager Rick Brown.

And Brown says that's the biggest misconception.  Brown says most people think that Tuesday's special election that asks voters to vote on a northern Indiana regional transportation district involves Transpo.

But it does not.  Brown says the local benefit is missing from the referendum, too.  He says the proposed transit authority would only help Lake and Porter Counties improve their transit systems and South Shore lines. But it would cost LaPorte and St. Joe counties, too.

"We don't want to be a part of something where local money would be given off into another area," said Brown.

To help front the costs, Brown says the St. Joe County local option income tax will likely increase a quarter of a percent (0.25%).

"A third time in a couple of years just doesn't make sense to me.  It seems like they're trying to get blood out of a turnip," said Margaret Thomas, a St. Joesph County resident .

That's why Thomas says she'll probably vote against the bill.  But before she votes, Thomas says she'll inform all of her friends and family to "find out some more about it for sure."

Brown says he would be in favor of a transit authority for northern Indiana, but only one that would benefit all counties involved.  We spoke with a South Shore spokesperson that declined to comment on the bill.  Two out of the four counties are needed to pass the referendum.  However, only Porter and St. Joseph counties are holding elections.  Officials in Lake and LaPorte counties say it would be too costly to open the polls for just one issue on the ballot.

Reporter: Nadia Crow

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