Vail Valley buses could be short $1.8 million
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” Declining county sales tax numbers in Colorado’s Vail Valley could mean ECO Transit’s budget is $1.8 million short.
Eighty percent of the department’s budget is based on sales tax and the sharp decline in county sales tax revenue is forcing officials to figure out what to do in case the drop continues.
The projected $1.8 million shortfall is based on sales tax being down 24 percent the rest of the year.
The department decided to run on a reduced spring schedule this year for the first time in order to save money. The seven weeks of reduced service ” which includes 31 fewer trips per day than the typical summer schedule ” started this weekend and will save ECO Transit about $150,000, officials said.
The bus service typically transitions from the winter schedule to a summer schedule.
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The commissioners also spared the ECO budget another $336,000 Tuesday by waiving part of its yearly administration fee. The board had already agreed to give ECO a $500,000 break on the $836,000 fee.
“I think it makes sense to backstop ECO,” Commissioner Jon Stavney said. “It’s a commitment to the working families in the county.”
Seven departments ” including road and bridge, the airport and housing ” have their own funds separate of the county’s general fund and pay a yearly administration fee for things like payroll, human resources and attorney services.
The commissioners lowered the fees for all seven departments this year based on the recommendations from a consultant. ECO is the only department that had it’s fee waived.
“The burden has fallen to the county,” said Commissioner Peter Runyon of ECO’s budget problems. “We’re coming to a crisis where we as a county have to deal with it.”
The ECO board meets today and will discuss options, including fare increases and reductions in service, in order to save money.
Raising fares on the Leadville bus route is one option, Commissioner Sara Fisher said. Runyon said giving ECO more general fund money was also an option.
A fare increase will have less impact on this year’s budget because three months of the year that are typically busy for the buses have already passed, Fisher said.
Asking individual towns for money is another possible way to generate revenue, although an unlikely one, Fisher said.
Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.