RFTA will cut service to cut its losses | AspenTimes.com

RFTA will cut service to cut its losses

CARBONDALE – Roaring Fork Transportation Authority officials think their revenues will drop 23 percent next year from what was budgeted in 2009 because of the ailing economy.

RFTA will get hit hardest by falling sales tax collections. Fares collections will also drop because of sagging ridership, according to the draft budget presented to the board of directors Thursday by Finance Director John Tangen and Chief Executive Officer Dan Blankenship. The board meets in Carbondale.

“It’s been a difficult year because we had to ask everyone in the organization to make some sacrifices,” Blankenship said.

Fiscal 2010 isn’t expected to be any better. Sales tax revenues, RFTA’s primary source of income, plummeted from $11.69 million in 2008 to a projected $9.57 million this year. Collections are expected to be flat next year – and 20 percent less than what was budgeted in 2009.

Revenue from fares is budgeted to drop to $4.2 million next year or 9 percent less than the amount budgeted for 2009. Ridership is projected to fall by 6.6 percent next year. The agency still expects to haul more than 4 million passengers.

The fare revenues will drop even though the average bus rider is paying 22 percent more because of a recent fare hike.

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RFTA is budgeting for $24.59 million in operating revenues or 23 percent less than what was budgeted for this year. Some revenues, like grants, are for specific uses and cannot be used to fund operations.

The agency will cut service to balance the budget. The board of directors determined in September it didn’t want to dip into reserves for the 2010 budget. Operating expenditures will be $21.36 million.

Bus service will be trimmed by about $650,000 from the amount budgeted this year. Starting in December, RFTA will slash service between Aspen and Glenwood Springs by about 4,300 hours by cutting express buses and back-up service. Service between Glenwood Springs and Rifle will be reduced by 3,100 hours – possibly more if a funding dispute doesn’t get resolved.

RFTA will freeze wages and salaries for next year. It still anticipates spending $10.47 million on wages, overtime and bonuses, or about 50 percent of all expenditures.

A public hearing will be held in November on the budget, including the proposed service cuts.

scondon@aspentimes.com