RFTA’s draft budget proposes holding the line on valley’s bus fares in 2018 | AspenTimes.com

RFTA’s draft budget proposes holding the line on valley’s bus fares in 2018

Thousands of commuters who depend on the Roaring Fork Valley's public bus system will likely pay the same fares in 2018, according to the agency's first crack at a 2018 budget.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority draft budget assumes the fare structure will remain the same for the second straight year. RFTA held the line on fares for 2017 as well.

RFTA anticipates its revenue from fares will increase by about 3 percent to $5 million even without an increase in the fares. Ridership on fare routes is expected to grow next year.

However, to make matters slightly confusing, RFTA's overall amount of service is expected to decline slightly next year. The agency is supplying free bus service for at least 90 days this summer and fall in the Interstate 70 corridor west of Glenwood Springs. Free rides are being offered as an incentive to take mass transit during construction of the Grand Avenue Bridge. The free rides could inflate ridership numbers for 2017.

RFTA's draft budget anticipates a $41.19 million budget for all expenditures for 2018. The current forecast is for $45.21 million in total expenditures for this year.

The agency fears that a glitch by the Colorado Legislature could affect its sales tax revenue for 2018. Senate Bill 17-262 excludes special districts — such as the transportation authority — from collecting sales tax on pot shop sales, according to a memo to RFTA's board of directors from the staff. Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Thursday he may reconvene the Legislature to fix that issue, which he said wasn't intended by the drafters of the bill.

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On the expense side, RFTA management is assessing wage increases for 2018. The full-time drivers voted to join a union recently and negotiated a work agreement that defines the schedule of pay increases.

"The Collective Bargaining Unit comprised of full-time bus operators are subject to scheduled pay increases in accordance with their three-year contract," stated a staff memo to the directors.

The draft budget anticipates an increase of about 4.6 percent for the estimated 145 full-time drivers needed next year. That would produce an additional expense of $355,000.

The draft budget also anticipates spending an extra $258,000 for merit increases for other workers not covered by the collective bargaining agreement.

The number of employees is expected to drop slightly next year for the bus agency. RFTA currently has 307.4 full-time equivalent positions. That is expected to fall to 305.6 full-time equivalents next year due to the drop in service needed for the Grand Avenue Bridge mitigation.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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