Editorial: When it comes to RFTA’s future, it’s now or later | PostIndependent.com

Editorial: When it comes to RFTA’s future, it’s now or later

In weighing the various local tax-related ballot issues before voters this fall, we gave careful consideration to the biggest of them all — RFTA's request via Ballot Issue 7A for what would be its first-ever property tax in the form of a 2.65 mill levy.

We have decided to take a neutral position, while encouraging those voters who have not yet cast their ballots to study this important issue and cast an educated vote.

Transportation is a huge issue for this region, and will continue to be as the population continues to grow and the economy hopefully continues to thrive, at the same time placing more demands on our transportation infrastructure.

Make no mistake, RFTA is as much part of that infrastructure as highways and bridges, which also by the way are tax-supported.

If this particular attempt to secure additional funding to help carry the RFTA bus system and its related facilities through the next two decades does not pass the sniff test this time around, be assured the inter-governmental representatives who diligently oversee the system will be back with another plan in the near future.

The biggest hesitation in listening to some voters on this issue is one of timing.

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Do we approve this plan now? Or, do we wait until maybe there aren't so many other important local and statewide tax questions for things like schools and teacher pay, and shoring up our emergency services, and catch voters in a more favorable mood when it comes to local transportation needs?

In the ensuing time, be certain that traffic will most likely increase and the need to expand transit services will be even greater. So it's now or later.

RFTA has done well with this particular proposal to leverage greater funding in support of RFTA from Aspen and Pitkin County.

This is in direct answer to one of the biggest concerns among downvalley constituents, which is that Aspen isn't currently paying its fair share through the existing sales tax funding structure for a system that now provides more perks for upvalley communities.

There is a perception that Glenwood Springs, as the retail hub of the Roaring Fork Valley, pays more than its fair share into the system, but doesn't receive the same level of service as Aspen and Pitkin County.

A supplemental mill levy, on the other hand, shifts much of that funding burden to Pitkin County, with its much higher property valuations.

According to RFTA's own assessment, Aspen, Snowmass Village and unincorporated Pitkin County, combined, would generate roughly $7.2 million in new annual revenue into the system, compared to just over $1 million for Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and New Castle, combined.

Keep in mind that unincorporated Garfield County is not part of the RFTA taxing district, nor are the west-end communities of Silt, Rifle and Parachute, though they still stand to benefit from expanded bus service under the plan.

Also in the plan are several key perks for Glenwood Springs and New Castle, including an expansion of the BRT routes into the downtown Glenwood Springs area, and greater frequency during peak times for the Grand Hogback bus route serving areas west of Glenwood along the I-70 corridor.

Funding for improvements to the South Glenwood Station and pedestrian access at 27th Street is also part of the package, as is funding for the Lower Valley (LoVa) Trail link through South Canyon.

So RFTA has done a good job of thinking about downvalley needs, and it's not all at our expense. Consider that in making these important decisions, and most importantly, complete and return your ballot by next Tuesday.