Skico gets on bus with RFTA ballot question |

Skico gets on bus with RFTA ballot question

ASPEN ” The Aspen Skiing Co. is on the bus.

The Skico contributed $2,000 to the campaign group working for approval of a sales tax increase for the expansion of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus system, Auden Schendler, Skico’s executive director of sustainability, said Thursday.

“Our business ” and the Aspen economy ” ultimately depends on successful mass transit,” Schendler said.

Skico pays RFTA to provide skier shuttles between the four ski areas. That contract service won’t be affected by the vote on this ballot issue. Skico, like every other business, benefits indirectly from RFTA service supported by taxes.

Skico officials joked in the 1980s and ’90s that their endorsement was often a kiss of death for candidates or issues, but that’s not the case so much any more. The company helped promote the creation of a regional transit authority in the November 2000 election, which established RFTA as it exists today.

Jacque Whitsitt, chair of Alternative Transportation Solutions, a citizens group working for approval of the bus sales tax increase, welcomed the Skico’s support in this election.

“It means a ton to have the Aspen Skiing Company’s endorsement,” Whitsitt said, noting the firm is one of the largest if not the largest private sector employer in the valley.

Whitsitt said the Skico donated the $2,000 “two or three weeks ago,” and Skico officials agreed in recent days to provide an endorsement for campaign materials. Voters in the Nov. 4 election will decide if RFTA receives a 0.4 percent sales tax increase. Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and New Castle voters as well as those in unincorporated Pitkin and Eagle counties will vote on the measure. The cumulative result carries the day. In other words, one town could vote against the proposal but still be levied the tax increase if the question passes in the region overall.

The Skico’s campaign contribution isn’t the largest for Alternative Transportation Solutions. Related/WestPac, the developer of Base Village in Snowmass, has committed $2,500, according to Whitsitt. The cash isn’t in hand yet, but Related/WestPac officials confirmed it is coming.

Whitsitt said the campaign group has collected about $6,780 in donations thus far, mostly in $100 increments. In addition, it has about $8,000 in commitments. Campaign finance reports are due later this month.

The RFTA ballot question, Referendum 4A, doesn’t have direct organized opposition, although Jeffrey Evans and the Common Sense Alliance have raised questions about the ballot proposal in the broader context of transportation issues.

If the ballot measure is approved RFTA will issue $44.55 million in bonds. The extra revenues will be used to pay off the bonds over the next 30 years and provide more operating funds. RFTA wants to use the money to buy 15 additional buses and increase service throughout the valley.

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