No to RFTA
Dear Editor:The primary purpose of the RFTA tax is to support the upvalley tourist service and to transport the necessary employees up to Aspen and Snowmass to generate the Aspen and Snowmass economy and sales tax income. To accomplish this, RFTA provides three buses every 15 minutes between midvalley and Aspen during the morning and evening rush hour and three buses every hour in between.Although RFTA promised two buses every hour to Glenwood Springs in order to induce the voters to approve the initial tax in 2002, they reneged on that and never provided more than one bus each hour. For that limited service, more than $1 million dollars per year have been removed from the Glenwood Springs economy and sent upvalley as a result of the approval of the RFTA tax.According to RFTA’s own projections for the year 2004, the operating expenses for the downvalley Aspen-Snowmass to Glenwood Springs and on to Rifle route is $7 million. The expected 2004 tax income and cashbox income is $9 million – a $2 million surplus.What then is causing the financial shortfall? The fact is that RFTA includes the cost of operating the various tourist bus services into the total RFTA budget even though they are not fully funded by the agency receiving the benefits of those services. As an example, RFTA trains and provides rental subsidies for the seasonal workers to provide skier buses in the winter and tourist transportation in the summer. Those costs are paid by our tax money and not by the ski company or the upper valley. The cost for those unfunded services exceeds $300,000. Then there is the Snowmass-to-Aspen free winter service to enable visitors from Aspen to combine Snowmass into their Aspen visit (and increase the Snowmass economy). These as well as the park-and-ride to Snowmass are completely unfunded – a $690,000 bill paid by our tax money. In addition there are Aspen/Pitkin County other bus services: to Maroon Bells, Aspen music school transportation, buses supporting the various music specials and extra buses during special events. These again according to the RFTA 2004 projections of costs and income, are underfunded in excess of $200,000 – a total of more than $1 million dollars.Now RFTA wants to increase our taxes by 50 percent, but the upper valley [would] increase their contribution to the RFTA income by less than 25 percent. This by itself should be a sufficient reason to vote no on the RFTA tax.Unless the RFTA Board agrees in writing to separate the expenses and tax income of the Aspen-Snowmass to Glenwood Springs and on to Rifle down-valley route from all the other services and expenses it provides, we should all vote no on this unfair tax increase.Stan StevensGlenwood Springs
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