Rejection of sales tax increase could cost RFTA 19 positions |

Rejection of sales tax increase could cost RFTA 19 positions

Scott Condon

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will be forced to eliminate jobs if voters reject a proposed sales tax increase in the November election, but not as drastically as portrayed in last Friday’s Aspen Times.RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship said there is only a preliminary plan at this point on how to cut $966,000 in expenditures from the 2005 budget if no new revenues are approved by voters.To start, his budget anticipates eliminating the positions of four mechanics, one supervisor and one information clerk. That would save about $326,000.In addition, 18,864 hours for drivers would be eliminated due to reductions in service. That 18 percent reduction in hours is the equivalent of 13 full-time drivers, Blankenship said. That would save another $495,000, according to RFTA’s preliminary budget.All told, the preliminary budget anticipates eliminating 19 positions among full-time staff and drivers. Some of those cuts could be achieved through attrition or by hiring fewer seasonal workers.In a story that ran Friday, The Aspen Times misconstrued Blankenship’s comment about an 18 percent reduction and assumed it applied to RFTA’s entire labor force, not just drivers’ hours. That inflated the estimated reduction in jobs.While RFTA’s budget anticipates eliminating the equivalent of 19 full-time positions to balance its budget next year, more cuts might be necessary if the agency adheres to its policy of building a reserve fund, Blankenship warned.Other reductions of expenditures could come in areas like lower workers’ compensation payments, less training and fewer miles on the buses.The bus agency must also decide how drastically to cut bus service if the ballot measure fails. Blankenship favors keeping the regular winter schedule regardless of what happens in the November election. Some board members want service cuts to start in January if the ballot question fails.Under Blankenship’s proposed budget, hours would be reduced so that buses run between Aspen and downvalley towns between 6:15 a.m. and 6:15 p.m. in spring, summer and fall. He hopes to continue operating the valley bus service from 4:35 a.m. to 2:15 a.m. during ski season.RFTA hopes to avoid cutting any jobs and service by convincing voters from Aspen to Glenwood Springs to approve an increased sales tax in the Nov. 2 election. In addition, voters in New Castle, Silt and unincorporated Garfield County will vote on whether they want to join RFTA and start a new sales tax levy.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is