The Regional Transportation District decided March 8 to take until May 3 to continue evaluating whether or not to ask voters to approve a .04 percent …
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The Regional Transportation District decided March 8 to take
until May 3 to continue evaluating whether or not to ask voters to
approve a .04 percent sales tax increase in 2011 or wait until 2012
in order to provide funds to complete FasTracks.
Without a sales tax increase, it will reportedly take until 2042
to complete the FasTracks project.
FasTracks was born in 2004 when voters approved a sales tax
increase to pay for the 12-year project to expand the metro area
mass transit system. Over the 12 years, FasTracks projects would
add a total of 119 miles of light rail and commuter rail lines,
enhance bus networks, transform Union Station into the metro-area
transit hub, create five new Park-N-Ride facilities and improve
existing transit systems and facilities.
However, since that voter-approved tax increase, construction
costs have skyrocketed and, because of the recession, revenues fell
well below predictions so the project is about $2 billion short of
the money needed to complete the planned project.
So, the RTD Board of Directors has been evaluating the
possibility of asking voters to approve an additional 0.4 percent
sales tax increase.
If voters approve the tax increase in 2011, FasTracks would be
completed in 2019. A year’s delay in approving the tax increase
means a year’s delay in completing the project.
The decision was part of the preparation of the annual financial
plan that must be submitted to the Denver Regional Council of
Governments for approval. The board voted 13-2 to adopt the
alternative that provides for a financial plan that assumes an
election in 2012 with voter approval of an additional 0.4 percent
sales tax increase to start in January 2013.
However, the board decided in order not to preclude going to the
voters this year, they would also submit a financial plan that
includes voter approval of the sale tax increase this year.
“This is a pretty exciting decision,” RTD Director Kent Bagley
said. “It is a decision that avoids a knee-jerk reaction. Instead,
it allows us to continue to move forward on this issue in a
Bagley, whose district includes Littleton, Cherry Hills and
parts of Englewood, Greenwood Village and Highlands Ranch, said the
decision to hold off on a final vote provides time for the board of
directors to evaluate existing data and gather additional
information in order to make a decision that will have a lasting
impact on the whole region.
RTD Director Jack O’Boyle agreed the decision keeps the process
“We looked at the information we have,” he said. “For example,
we know our latest poll of residents likely to vote in the 2011
election doesn’t show strong support for a tax increase at this
time. But we also know many community leaders and groups support
the sales tax increase because they want to see FasTracks built as
planned and completed in the near future. So, it is essential we
evaluate all the data to prepare us to make an informed decision
that, if we should ask voter approval for a sales tax increase the
issue will be approved.”
O’Boyle said well-known economist Patty Silverstine estimates
the 0.4 percent tax increase would cost a family of three making
about $55,000 a year about $80 a year in additional sales
Board members also agreed to a final decision May 3 on an annual
financial plan that will be forwarded to DRCOG for approval.
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