AATA to County: Make New Transit Authority

At a special meeting held on Oct. 2, 2012, the board of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority unanimously passed a resolution requesting that the Washtenaw County clerk file articles of incorporation for a new countywide transit authority to be called The Washtenaw Ride. The articles will be filed under Act 196 of 1986.

The creation of the new authority will be made official when the Washtenaw County clerk files the paperwork with the state, likely on Oct. 3. [Added shortly after initial publication: Although the Oct. 3 date was the expectation expressed at the AATA board's Sept. 27 meeting, the wording of a Washtenaw County board of commissioners resolution on the topic indicates that a step of alerting jurisdictions of the intent to file would need to take place beforehand.] However, that entity will initially have no assets, staff, or ability to operate transportation service in the county. A 15-member board composition for the new authority is already reflected in the membership of the board of the yet-to-be-incorporated board (called the U196 board), which has been meeting for a year.

In order for make a transition from the AATA to The Washtenaw Ride, under terms of a four-party agreement, voters would need to approve a funding source adequate to pay for the proposed expanded service plan. That four-party agreement was ratified by the city of Ann Arbor, the city of Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County and the AATA.

The AATA has indicated that a possible scenario is to ask voters in Washtenaw County to fund the new transit authority with a property tax of 0.584 mills – in an election that could come as early as May 2013. For a house worth $200,000, with a state-equalized value of $100,000, an 0.584 mill transit tax would cost that property owner about $58 per year. For an Ann Arbor resident with a $200,000 house, adding the 0.584 mill tax to the existing city transit tax of roughly 2 mills works out to a transportation tax burden of about $258 a year.

Also under the four-party agreement, the two cities’ transit taxes would become part of The Washtenaw Ride’s funding.

The transition would potentially not take place at all, if a majority of voters don’t approve it. Under the terms of the four-party agreement, a voter-approved funding source for the expanded services must be identified by the end of 2014.

Washtenaw County’s role is limited to the filing of the articles of incorporation. But incorporation of the new transit authority will include by default all the jurisdictions in Washtenaw County. However, filing of the articles opens a 30-day window for jurisdictions to opt out of the arrangement. That can be accomplished through a vote of a jurisdiction’s governing body.

Updated at 3 p.m. Oct. 3, 2012: According to Washtenaw County clerk staff, certified letters were sent on Sept. 27 to the clerks of all jurisdictions in the county of an intent to file the articles of incorporation on Oct. 3. Letters were also sent to all elected officials in the county. Information included in that communication was the last day to opt out of inclusion, Nov. 2, as well as sample resolutions that could be used by a jurisdiction’s governing body to decide the opt-out question. After the vote by the AATA board on Oct. 2, county administrator Verna McDaniel determined that the Washtenaw board of commissioners’ resolution requiring publication of the service plan and notification of intent to file had been satisfied, and then notified the county clerk of that. Then on Oct. 3, representatives of the AATA were authorized as couriers by the county clerk to physically convey the paperwork to Lansing.

This brief was filed from the downtown location of the Ann Arbor District Library, where the AATA board holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]