Wading through RFTA tax issues on ballot a daunting endeavor
A raft of RFTA tax issues will be decided by voters this fall.Understanding how they all fit together may make figuring out bus schedules and fares, or even driving to Aspen in a snowstorm in morning rush hour, seem easy by comparison.Basically, two different issues are at stake this fall for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. One is whether existing members of RFTA should increase funding for the service. The second is whether Silt, New Castle and residents of unincorporated Garfield County (those living outside municipal limits) should join RFTA.But things quickly get complicated from there. Not all existing members will be voting on a tax increase. Pitkin County voters instead are being asked to contribute an additional amount to RFTA, equal to the proceeds of a tax rate of 0.165 percent, from the county’s existing 0.5 percent transportation sales tax.Voters in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Basalt, and Eagle County within the Roaring Fork Valley are being asked to increase their RFTA sales and use tax by 0.2 percent. 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.Those downvalley areas will vote on the tax increase as a collective unit. That means it could fail in Carbondale, for example, but still go into effect there if the majority of existing downvalley voters still approve it.However, the tax increase also is contingent on Pitkin County voters saying “yes” to the reallocation of funds to RFTA.For that matter, Pitkin County’s tax reallocation is contingent on a “yes” vote on a tax increase from downvalley.Things are simpler for prospective new RFTA members. Each of the three jurisdictions will decide individually whether to join the organization, meaning that New Castle could end up not joining, for example, while unincorporated Garfield County could join.However, New Castle and Silt are voting on a different proposal from unincorporated Garfield County.The two towns will simply decide whether to approve a 0.4 percent RFTA sales and use tax. Voters in unincorporated Garfield County will decide on a 0.4 percent sales and use tax that would pay for RFTA and partially fund the Traveler service for senior citizens. In addition, unincorporated Garfield County is being asked to approve another 0.2 percent sales tax for trails and non-RFTA transit projects.By joining RFTA, residents of Silt, New Castle and unincorporated Garfield County also would pay an annual $10 vehicle registration fee imposed by RFTA.All of the RFTA tax proposals also include the stipulation that the amounts generated by them would not be subject to the revenue and spending limits of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights Amendment to the state Constitution. Current RFTA revenues are already excluded from those limits.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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