SMART: Millage must pass to stay in business - New York News

SMART: Millage must pass to stay in business

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(WJBK) - Giving 11 million rides a year, many people are dependent on SMART.

General manager John Hertel says 70 percent of SMART riders depend on the bus to get to work, but he also says SMART is losing money due to decreased property values and federal funds. He says SMART could soon be out of business.

"If we don't pass the millage next year we will be in deficit spending. The state law that allows us to operate says we cannot operate in deficit spending, so SMART would have to go out of business next year," Hertel says.

So, SMART is asking voters to say yes on August 5 to raise taxes to 1 mill from .59. For someone with a $100,000 home that's about $41 a year.

Hertel says 80 percent of the fleet has 500,000 miles or more. He says it's simply time for these buses to be replaced.

"The average life of a bus is 500,000 miles, so 80 percent of our buses exceed the average life and some of our buses have as many as 800,000 miles," he says.

Hertel says everybody at SMART has taken salary and benefit cuts. The latest round came as of July 1. He knows nobody wants to pay higher taxes but the alternative is grim.

"These are people who really need SMART," he says. "SMART going out of business would strand a lot of people in their lives."

That 1 mill will bring in $29 million annually and enable SMART to order 59 new buses this year and 45 new buses each year for the next three years.
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