RFTA now projects $526,000 shortfall
CARBONDALE ” New projections show the agency that runs the valley’s bus system will have an operating deficit of $526,000 this year because of falling revenues from sales taxes and fares.
The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will dip into its $3.5 million reserve to cover the shortfall rather than cut bus service this summer. However, the management is examining potential service cuts next winter at the direction of its board of directors.
Board member Jacque Whitsitt followed up on a request she made last month for RFTA senior staff to also crunch numbers to show potential savings from freezing or cutting wages. Whitsitt said “everyone” she talks to is discussing reduced pay and layoffs because of the tough economic climate. RFTA needs to at least examine those strategies on paper, she said.
RFTA Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship is loath to consider freezing wages this year because he said it would create a big problem with morale. He favors looking at wage freezes for next year, if necessary.
RFTA’s budget didn’t include cost-of-living raises this year, but employees were eligible for merit raises of up to 4 percent. The bus agency employs about 260 people at the winter peak and about 40 to 50 fewer during offseasons.
Blankenship said overall ridership didn’t drop much this winter despite the sour economy. Decreases in the number of passengers traveling from Carbondale and Glenwood Springs to Aspen were offset by increases in the Aspen-Snowmass Village service.
Nevertheless, RFTA’s latest projections anticipate fare revenues will drop 15 percent, or $670,000, this year, in large part because of an error in an earlier calculation. RFTA’s budget included collection of fares on service between Aspen and Snowmass Village even though that is now free, Blankenship said.
The RFTA management has pared $2.37 million out of this year’s budget. Adjusting for the fare error knocks that savings down to $1.7 million. Sales tax revenues are estimated to plummet by 20 percent, or $2.23 million, which will create the projected $526,000 shortfall.
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The city of Aspen and Pitkin County are partnering to buy a 274-acre tract of land off McLain Flats for $10 million on property owned by longtime residents Carolyn and Tom Moore.