Services on the chopping block after proposed 'penny tax' fails

By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Richland County says it has a list of road projects in the works, but leaders say they don't know how they will finish them after a tax that was to have funded the project was turned down by voters.
The one-cent tax was just a few hundred votes short of passing. Another area of uncertainty is the bus system. Even if you've never ridden a city bus, the proposal's failure may still hit you hard.

Delores McLeod drives what's called a DART bus. "I've been doing this almost 14 years," said McLeod.

Her bus gives rides to folks who are elderly or have health problems. "People who are on board now depend on it three times a week to take them back and forth to dialysis," said Cleophus White. "Its very important to me. They not only pick you up, they carry you to where you need to go."

She may soon have to find a ride elsewhere, according to the woman who oversees the program. "It just breaks my heart to think of not being able to provide services to the elderly," said Joyce Dickerson. "We really need our DART services."

But because of what happened inside voting booths, keeping those services will be quite difficult when the bus system loses major funding next June. they were hoping voters would support a penny sales tax in Richland County to keep them going, but the tax narrowly failed.
"When money runs out, services will be reduced significantly and that is a fact," said Dickerson.

Even though it may seem like a dead end, there's still hope they'll find an alternate route. "Keep our fingers crossed and pray," said McLeod.

The transit authority met Wednesday to try and brainstorm on some kind of alternate route, but the authority made no decisions. It's likely that services will be drastically reduced after June.
As far as the tax coming up for a vote again, that can't happen for two more years.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved.