Lawsuit tossed, CATS moves forward with 2014 plans

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A lawsuit disputing the validity of that Capitol Area Transit System or CATS tax has been tossed out.

The attorney of the residents who filed the suit claims it had nothing to do with the facts of the case. Voters approved that CATS tax back in 2012, to provide additional funding for the bus system.

Attorney Kyle Keegan said the basis for the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of two EBR citizens, is that they believe it was unfair that the 2012 election only levied additional property taxes against people who live within city limits when the bus system provides services throughout the parish.

Keegan says the ruling was based on a technicality.

"Did they file in an appropriate time," said CATS CEO Bob Mirabito. "What I saw was that state law requires that you file within 60 days any lawsuit against a tax. It's my understanding the party waited 71 days."

Keegan says because his clients brought both state and federal claims, they should not be limited to the 60 day law.

Mirabito says as far as he can tell, for now, the lawsuit is done with. His focus is now on expanding services as quickly as possible. He says that means new bus shelters and four new transfer points to include Towne Square, Mall of Louisiana, Cortana Mall and north Baton Rouge.

Also included, expanding transit services for riders with physical challenges. Mirabito says they expect ridership by those with physical ailments to go up 30-40%.

All the changes for 2014 will be done using the tax money collected this year. That would give CATS a budget of 24 million dollars. What that budget does not include is about $500,000 that is tied up in escrow, from residents who had paid their taxes under protest.

Should a judge find the initial lawsuit against CATS constitutional, that money will be turned over to the bus company. If it's ruled unconstitutional, only those who've filed under protest with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, will have their money returned.

Copyright 2013 WAFB. All rights reserved.