RFTA budget: Rosy, or not | AspenTimes.com

RFTA budget: Rosy, or not

A $23.9 million expense budget that keeps the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s existing bus system running as usual in 2005 will go to the agency’s board of directors next month for approval ” assuming voters endorse additional funding for the cash-strapped service.

The best-case-scenario budget reflects the passage of ballot measures to increase RFTA funding among the authority’s current member communities in the Roaring Fork Valley, and passage of ballot questions in unincorporated Garfield County, Silt and New Castle that would bring those jurisdictions into RFTA, as well.

The rosy budget forecast calls for $24.6 million in revenues, leaving a cushion of some $816,000, given $23.6 million in operating and capital expenses, including $1.3 million earmarked for the valleywide trail/rail corridor.

Sales tax devoted to RFTA and a $10 auto registration fee surcharge among the new members would add about $709,000 in revenues for RFTA in 2005; the new tax support from existing members would bring about $1.9 million in additional funds to the authority next year. In addition, RFTA is forecasting a 3 percent increase in revenues from existing sales taxes dedicated to the organization.

The budget includes a 4 percent pay hike for RFTA employees in January, but no merit-pay increases; anticipates a 20 percent increase in health insurance costs and a 41.5 percent increase in fuel costs. It would also fund two new positions ” one to help manage RFTA’s growing number of park-and-ride facilities and one to help with management of the rail/trail corridor, which it oversees.

The trail budget includes $834,567 for continuing trail construction and the doubling of the weed-management budget for the corridor to $61,500.

RFTA’s proposed capital budget allows for the purchase of 14 new buses; four are to be hybrid diesel-electric buses.

If Garco, Silt and New Castle don’t join RFTA, the proposed 2005 budget needs to be trimmed by some $333,000, according to Dan Blankenship, RFTA’s CEO.

If the funding measures within the Roaring Fork Valley fail as well, far more drastic cuts are contemplated.

Blankenship has outlined a 33 percent service reduction for 2005 if no new tax support is forthcoming.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail is janet@aspentimes.com

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