CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District board will ask for $329,000 more, or about a 4.9 percent increase, in next spring's property tax levy.
The effect on tax rates for property owners in the MTD service area won't be known until next spring, when the increase in the district's assessed valuation is factored in.
"I would expect it to be lower than (4.9 percent). That would be the maximum amount," said MTD Managing Director Bill Volk.
The MTD board voted 5-0 to approve the higher levy Wednesday afternoon.
"I would just note that this is a modest increase," said MTD board member Willard Broom. "We have had more than a modest increase in the use of our service."
The final tax levy ordinance will be voted on at the MTD board's Dec. 4 meeting.
Volk said the request for more property tax money is because of higher costs associated with a 2 percent across-the-board wage increase for MTD employees, higher health care and pension costs, expanded service on three routes and record use of existing service.
The increase use of existing service is causing some concern among the MTD staff, Volk said Wednesday.
September ridership on MTD buses was 1.35 million, or 11.6 percent above the previous September, and is up more than 10 percent for the first quarter of the MTD's fiscal year. It was the 13th consecutive monthly record.
And Volk said that October's total will crack the 1.5 million mark — the first time that has occurred in the 42-year history of the transit district.
The MTD is receiving complaints about crowded buses and has added vehicles when possible, but is now urging University of Illinois students to take earlier, less crowded buses.
At times as many as 95 of the MTD's 102 buses are on the street at one time, he said.
"We are trying to deal with that. Last week we had a couple of days with totals of 62,500. Our operational folks are doing quite well, handling as well as they can," he said. "It's almost becoming routine whereas a year or two ago a 60,000-passenger day was a strain. It's not the strain it used to be."
But when asked how long the upward trend would continue, Volk said he was unsure.
Expanded service, increased enrollment at the UI and fewer young people driving cars are among the factors causing the increase, he said.
"There are fewer people bringing cars to campus. I don't know how much lower that can go," he said. "But there are a lot fewer cars being brought to campus. And generally young people aren't getting drivers licenses as early as they did before.
"I think we have to consider expanding the fleet so we have a better capability of responding. And we've had some staff discussion about whether to add 40-foot buses or the (larger) articulated buses. There's been a difference of opinion about what we should do."