Carbondale signs off on RTA question
Carbondale voters will get to decide in November whether or not the town should impose a sales tax to participate in a partnership to fund a valleywide bus system.
The Carbondale board of trustees voted 6-0 last night to refer the funding question to voters.
The question on whether to form and fund a Rural Transportation Authority as a way to ensure a steady source of revenue for a bus system will now apparently make it to the November ballots of all five municipal governments and three counties in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Doubts were raised last week about whether Carbondale voters would get their say. Susie Darrow, the board’s representative to a group of elected officials looking into formation of the RTA, objected to parts of a long, detailed document that spells out how the authority would operate.
Darrow was the only local government representative who refused last week to sign off on that document, called an intergovernmental agreement.
In response to Darrow’s action, about eight Carbondale citizens spoke at a public hearing last night either in favor of referring the question to voters or in favor of expanded bus service to Carbondale.
Former town trustee John Foulkrod said the marginal sales tax increase that Carbondale would face was worth keeping people – particularly kids – off Highway 82.
The RTA proposal would require Carbondale to charge an additional 0.4 percent sales tax. It is estimated that it would cost a family that spends $15,000 annually on retail sales in the town an extra $60 per year in taxes. Food is exempt from the transportation sales tax.
Carbondale’s tax would raise about $246,000 annually, at current spending levels. That would provide about 3.8 percent of the RTA’s tax-generated revenues.
In return for its participation, Carbondale would receive more frequent bus service, with a bus arriving and departing every half-hour.
Darrow wasn’t the only Carbondale trustee troubled by provisions of the RTA operating agreement.
Mayor Randy Vanderhurst said he was still balking at the prospect of the town paying to move its residents to jobs in Aspen and Glenwood Springs.
“Who benefits and who pays? That’s the bottom-line logic in all this,” he said.
Ultimately the board voted 5-1 to accept the intergovernmental agreement dictating how the RTA will operate as well as 6-0 for putting a question on the ballot. Trustee Andy Montoya was absent.
Darrow arrived at a confusing position over the questions. She voted to put a question on the RTA before voters but voted against accepting the intergovernmental agreement. Despite that opposition to the IGA, she said she would personally support the RTA in the election.
“This board is for mass transit. Even me,” said Darrow. “I’m going to vote for this in November.”
However, Darrow also informed her fellow board members that she would not represent the town on an RTA board if the authority is approved by voters. “I think it would be best for all concerned,” she said.
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