Voters give RFTA budget a lift |

Voters give RFTA budget a lift

Janet Urquhart

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will likely be tightening its belt next year, but voters have given the struggling agency some breathing room.Roaring Fork Valley voters approved additional tax support for RFTA on Tuesday and the agency picked up a new member jurisdiction in New Castle; the town will institute a 0.4 percent sales tax and $10 vehicle registration surcharge that will help subsidize the regional bus service.RFTA had been looking at a 33 percent reduction in its commuter bus service in the valley and the Interstate 70 corridor unless additional funding won approval at the polls this week.Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt, the portion of Eagle County in the valley and Pitkin County, including Aspen and Snowmass Village, will all increase their sales tax support for RFTA with the passage of Tuesday’s tax questions.Voters in unincorporated Garfield County and Silt both rejected proposals to join the agency and support it financially.Had the Garfield County measure passed, RFTA was anticipating roughly $500,000 in additional revenue from that jurisdiction alone next year, according to CEO Dan Blankenship. He will take a proposed 2005 budget to RFTA’s board of directors on Nov. 11 that reflects the additional revenue from within the valley and New Castle, but no sales tax support from Garfield County and Silt.”The major decision is going to be, what cuts have to occur to stay within our budget and when do these cuts occur,” said Dorothea Farris, Pitkin County commissioner and chairwoman of the RFTA board. “The cuts may not be that severe.”New Castle’s participation ensures RFTA will continue its Grand Hogback service in some form, she noted. The route currently operates between Glenwood Springs and Rifle.”It may go to New Castle, but it may not go to Rifle,” Farris said. “It’s important to Glenwood Springs that it go to Rifle, but we have to cut somewhere.”Elected officials in Rifle chose not to put a RFTA question on the ballot there this year.The support for additional RFTA funding within the Roaring Fork Valley is heartening, Farris added.”What it says to me is, where RFTA is used, people really like it and it serves a purpose,” she said.RFTA’s fate at the polls wasn’t finally clear until Wednesday morning, when the last of Garfield County’s ballots were tallied.Blankenship was up all Tuesday night, waiting for final results that came through as the sky grew light on Wednesday.”I’m obviously somebody who is very interested in the outcome of the results,” he said. “A little bit of lost sleep was worth it to get word on the results that we got.”In Pitkin County, additional funding for RFTA from an existing transit tax won overwhelming voter approval.Voters from Glenwood Springs to Basalt approved an additional 0.2 percent sales tax dedicated to RFTA. It amounts to 2 cents on a $10 purchase.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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