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RFTA board members rejoice in voters’ support of sales tax increase

Dennis Webb

Supporters of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority expressed jubilation Wednesday at the strong support its member communities showed for increasing funding for the organization.One of them also welcomed news that New Castle voted Tuesday to join RFTA, even as voters in Silt and unincorporated Garfield County (outside municipal limits) voted against becoming RFTA members.”I’m thrilled about the RFTA vote,” said Jacque Whitsitt of Basalt, a former RFTA board member.Voters in the lower Roaring Fork Valley endorsed a RFTA tax vote by a combined total of 5,113-3,842. Meanwhile, Pitkin County voters endorsed by a 6,445-1,906 vote reallocating funds from an existing transportation tax to RFTA.Both the lower Roaring Fork Valley and Pitkin County measures had to pass for either to take effect.Referendum 4B proposed a 0.2 percent sales tax increase to support the bus agency in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt and the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County. The tax is now 0.4 percent in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, and 0.5 percent in Basalt and the affected part of Eagle County.Meanwhile, voters in unincorporated Garfield County rejected the idea of joining RFTA by a 5,269-3,417 vote. Silt turned it down 454-374.New Castle approved joining by a 587-535 vote.New Castle and Silt were deciding whether to approve a 0.4 percent RFTA sales and use tax. County voters were deciding on a 0.4 percent sales and use tax to pay for RFTA and partially fund the Traveler service for senior citizens. In addition, they were asked to approve another 0.2 percent sales tax for trails and non-RFTA transit projects.Residents of Silt, New Castle and unincorporated Garfield County also were being asked to pay an annual $10 vehicle registration fee imposed by RFTA if they joined the system.Whitsitt said she was surprised by New Castle’s vote.”I thought it was great to get anybody but the existing members to vote ‘yes’ on this,” Whitsitt said.She said the vote by existing members to give RFTA more funding was badly needed.”It makes me really hopeful that folks really can depend on RFTA to be there for them to grow as the communities grow,” Whitsitt said.Longtime RFTA critic Stan Stevens said voters generally supported the bus system despite what he considers its failure to adequately answer his concerns that downvalley residents are being asked to subsidize upvalley services.”The people were persuaded to say ‘yes.’ I don’t know why, but they did.”Stevens said he can see why New Castle agreed to join RFTA while Silt and county residents didn’t.”There is a larger pool of people who work in Aspen and live in New Castle,” he said. He said he likes Garfield County Commissioner John Martin’s suggestion that the county explore creating its own downvalley bus system as a cheaper alternative to RFTA.Whitsitt questioned how much money that would save.”It’s like starting a new town. Where do you get the capital and resources to start a new bus company?””It’s like starting a new town. Where do you get the capital and resources to start a new bus company?”


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