Rifle council won’t put RFTA tax on November ballot
The Rifle City Council won’t let voters decide whether the city should become a member of the Roaring Fork Transit Authority because there are already too many tax issues in the November election.A ballot question in the November election would have asked voters to approve a 0.4 percent tax increase.Dan Blankenship, executive director of RFTA, said he knew there was some hesitation.”I wasn’t surprised, but I was hoping there would be more support than there was,” Blankenship said after the council’s meeting last week. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm, and they indicated they weren’t sure there were enough benefits to let it go to a vote at this time.”RFTA has met with communities from Aspen to Parachute in search of membership and sales tax revenue to help support the service. The transit authority is asking for a 0.4 percent tax increase for new members and an additional 0.2 percent increase from existing members.Silt and New Castle are in the process of drafting an intergovernmental agreement that could put the proposed tax increase on their ballots. Glenwood Springs and Carbondale are currently members of RFTA. Garfield County commissioners agreed Monday to put the question on the November ballot.But Rifle doesn’t think the time is right, especially with expected tax increase questions, including a citywide lodging tax and another mill levy override by the Re-2 School District.”If the taxpayers see too many questions on the ballot, they’ll just say no-no-no,” said Mayor Pro Tem Judy Builteman. Councilor Beth Bascom said she felt the city would revisit the issue in the future.”I think it’s only a matter of time that we’ll be sitting at the table with you, but now is not the time,” Bascom told Blankenship.RFTA has reported that the current operating cost of the Grand Hogback route, which was established in April 2002, is running at about $350,000 and ridership has steadily increased. But without additional funding, the service may have to be cut back.Several regular riders vouched for the bus service and asked the city to support it.”All types of people use it,” said Mary Cranor. “Construction workers, carpenters, kids, people who’ve lost their license, students, all realms of life that take the bus for one reason or the other.”Blankenship also stressed that the Grand Hogback service from Glenwood Springs to Rifle was new and would see increased ridership in the future.”The service is only in the beginning stages,” Blankenship said. “If we can maintain and improve it over time, we’ll see more people using the service. But if we don’t, we may never see what the potential was.”Blankenship said that without Rifle’s support, the Grand Hogback service may not be discontinued, but it could be cut back.”We’re not threatening to cut the service, but we can’t guarantee it at the same levels,” he said. “When you’re starting a new service, it requires vision.”The issue could still be put on the ballot through a citizens’ initiative with a required number of signatures by registered voters of Rifle.”If they did get the required number (of signatures), it would be an indication that the people would support it,” Blankenship said.
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