Cuts won’t cure RFTA shortfall
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority is in such dire economic shape that even proposed bus service cuts won’t bail its budget out of the red. Senior staff members proposed significant cuts in bus service last week, affecting every town from Aspen to Rifle. A story in The Aspen Times last week created a perception that the cuts would help RFTA balance its budget. However, the cuts are needed just to reduce the estimated deficit from $1.14 million to $478,500 next year, according to RFTA finance director Heather Copp. Her draft budget for 2004 anticipated total expenditures of $18.33 million and a deficit of about $1.14 million. The senior staff recommended service cuts totaling $706,000. That would reduce expenditures to $17.39 million and whittle the deficit to $478,000. The proposed cuts included: -Starting operations of valley fare routes later in the day, making the first runs of the day at 6 a.m. rather than 4:35 a.m. -Reducing Snowmass Village fare buses to one per hour between 6 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. -Eliminating weekend service to Rifle year-round and cutting weekday service between Rifle and Glenwood Springs between 1 a.m. and 1 p.m. -Cutting Woody Creek service. -Cutting some direct service from downvalley and Snowmass Village during the winter. The service cuts haven’t been approved yet by the RFTA board of directors, but short of divine intervention they appear likely. Copp said she will be able to make better projections about RFTA’s revenues when the board of directors meets again Oct. 9. She said she made as conservative of assumptions as possible about revenues in the draft budget. It’s possible revenues will be slightly higher. Even so, it probably won’t reduce the need for bus service cuts. “I don’t foresee where we’re going to get enough revenue where we could restore all of it,” Copp said. Copp didn’t forecast any increase in sales tax revenues, which RFTA relies on from local governmental entities for about 33 percent of its budget. In addition, RFTA received $565,000 from the Elected Officials Transportation Committee this year which it doesn’t anticipate receiving next year. That committee is comprised of upper-valley elected officials. In addition, RFTA is making more of an effort, starting in 2004, to build a reserve fund for capital and operating expenses, Copp noted. The loss of revenues and addition of the reserve fund contributed to the deficit projection. If the outlook doesn’t improve in October, the RFTA directors will be forced to slash even more expenses from the budget. “We may have to look at additional service cuts,” said Copp. [Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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