It’s one-for-all in RFTA election
The towns and counties of the Roaring Fork Valley have settled on a potentially risky strategy to try to win extra sales tax revenues from voters in November to run the struggling bus system.Ballot questions in the upper valley and lower valley will be tied together in a “one-for-all-and-all-for-one” way. They were connected intentionally to try to show unity for the Roaring Fork Transit Authority and build trust among its members, according to Dorothea Farris, Pitkin County commissioner and chairwoman of RFTA’s board of directors.But the wording also creates the risk that RFTA could get shut out.A ballot question in Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and the valley’s portion of Eagle County will ask voters to approve a 0.2 percent sales tax increase, an amount equal to 2 cents on each $10 purchase. Those jurisdictions already have a 0.2 percent sales tax.The election results from those jurisdictions will be cumulative. For example, if Carbondale residents reject the proposal but it is approved elsewhere, Carbondale goes with the majority.Residents of Aspen, Snowmass Village and unincorporated Pitkin County will be asked a separate question. It will ask if an additional 0.165 percent of Pitkin County’s existing 0.5 percent transportation sales tax can be dedicated to RFTA.Muddying the water is the fact that those funds could be allocated to RFTA without seeking voter approval. Elected officials in Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County have a transportation committee that chooses how to spend the existing sales tax revenues on transportation needs. That committee could dedicate the 0.165 percent to RFTA – in addition to what’s already devoted to the bus system.But upper-valley officials wanted to pop the question to voters anyway. In addition, they wanted ballot wording that says the additional 0.165 percent will be allocated from the upper-valley fund only if the lower- valley proposal is approved.RFTA’s board of directors didn’t want to tie the ballot questions together when they last met on Aug. 12. The board changed its mind at a special meeting Thursday.”Upon reflection, it appears that including such contingency language in the RFTA ballot question would be beneficial, in that it could help to unify the two ballot measures submitted to voters throughout the existing RFTA region in a way that separate, non-contingent ballot measures would not,” RFTA’s chief executive officer Dan Blankenship wrote to his board.The contingent wording was approved unanimously without detailed discussion.In addition to the Roaring Fork Valley ballot questions, voters in unincorporated Garfield County will be asked if they want to join RFTA and approve a 0.6 percent transportation sales tax increase. Of that, 0.4 percent would be dedicated to RFTA and 0.2 percent would to go to Garfield County’s own transportation and trails projects.The towns of Silt and New Castle plan to ask residents if they want to join RFTA with a 0.4 percent sales tax contribution.RFTA officials contend they need the additional infusion from existing members because revenues haven’t met expectations since a valleywide sales tax was first approved four years ago. The agency will be forced to make drastic cuts in service if it doesn’t get more money, board members contend.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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