City should quit EOTC | AspenTimes.com

City should quit EOTC

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

One Aspen city councilman has suggested the city quit collecting a sales tax dedicated to transit and withdraw from the group that oversees the spending of the money, since a city request to use the funds was recently rejected.

The Elected Officials Transportation Committee, made up of the City Council, Snowmass Village Town Council and Board of County Commissioners, recently rejected Aspen’s request for $250,000 to shore up its transit budget.

The city is already preparing to cut back on off-season bus service to help offset a shortfall in sales tax collections that fund transit. Meanwhile, the EOTC is sitting on about $10 million in surplus revenues, Councilman Tony Hershey complained.

That the city was unable to tap into those funds is “absolutely ridiculous,” he said Monday, when the EOTC’s 2002 budget was before the council for approval.

Most of the revenues from a half-cent Pitkin County sales tax that helps fund the EOTC coffers are collected in Aspen, Hershey said, suggesting the city withdraw from the EOTC if it can’t use the money.

Actually, three members of the City Council joined the Snowmass Village and Pitkin County representatives on the committee in turning down the request earlier this month.

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The committee agreed it needs a long-range policy on expenditures before it grants Aspen’s request, noted Mayor Helen Klanderud.

“There needs to be a policy in place, I think they were saying, and frankly, I agree with them,” she said.

The EOTC funds come from the sales tax and a half-cent use tax on vehicles registered in the county and construction materials used in the county.

Councilman Tom McCabe questioned the county’s expenses in collecting the use tax, calling the administrative costs “outrageous.”

The EOTC budget for 2002 includes $400,000 in revenues from the use tax. Collection costs are projected at $88,845.

“That’s a lot of overhead for a small fund,” McCabe said.

Initially, it appeared a motion to approve the resolution authorizing EOTC expenditures would die for lack of a second, but the council eventually OK’d the resolution on a 3-2 vote with Hershey and McCabe dissenting.

The council directed city staffers to inquire about the administrative costs associated with the county’s collection of the use tax proceeds.

The EOTC budget projects $4.1 million in revenues this year, including $2.9 million from the sales tax and the $400,000 in use tax collections.

It calls for $1.9 million in expenditures, including a $1.4 million contribution to valleywide bus service. The projected year-end surplus totals $10.6 million.

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