RVTD levy would temporarily raise taxes 73 percent

Evening, Saturday hours in danger of being cut The Rogue Valley Transportation District will ask voters to approve a temporary, 73 percent increase in property taxes to avoid cutting evening hours and Saturday service.

By Damian Mann

Posted Jul. 8, 2014 at 2:00 AM

The Rogue Valley Transportation District will ask voters to approve a temporary, 73 percent increase in property taxes to avoid cutting evening hours and Saturday service.
“I hope it isn’t a tough sell,” said Bill Mansfield, RVTD board member. “We haven’t had an increase for many, many decades.”
The RVTD board recently approved asking voters on Nov. 4 for a five-year levy of 13 cents per $1,000. The district currently taxes 17.72 cents per $1,000, or $26.58 per year on a house valued at $150,000.
If voters approve the levy, the amount collected by RVTD would increase to $46.08 on a $150,000 house, or $19.50 more per year.
The new levy would bring in an additional $1.69 million to district coffers each year.
Without the extra funding, RVTD could be in danger of losing $400,000 of almost $2.5 million in matching federal dollars.
The district has an operating budget of $9.4 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
In addition to preserving weekend and evening hours, the additional levy would add a route to better serve east Medford and another route that would serve Rogue Community College’s Table Rock Campus in White City.
The expanded Medford route would traverse neighborhoods near McAndrews and Springbrook roads to serve an increased number of low-income families.
RVTD is seeking the dollars because a three-year federal grant, which paid for expanded evening hours and weekend service, will end in 2015.
Mansfield said that after five years, the district would no longer be able to collect the 13 cents per $1,000 unless it received another approval from voters.
Connie Skillman, chairwoman of the RVTD board, said the five-year period would give RVTD time to figure out other funding options.
“Hopefully, this would get us over the hump,” she said. “It will be a serious problem if we don’t get this money.”
She said RVTD provides more service for the limited dollars it receives than any other transportation district in the state.
With gas prices increasing, local residents will need RVTD’s services more and more, Skillman said.
Instead of cutting back on service, Skillman said RVTD should be expanding routes and hours of operation. She said she would like to see Sunday service offered as well.
The request for additional dollars is separate from an effort to expand a bus route into Eagle Point. Voters in Eagle Point will be asked on Nov. 4 whether they want to join RVTD and pay the district’s permanent levy of 17.72 cents per $1,000. In addition, voters in Eagle Point would also pay the temporary levy of 13 cents per $1,000 if it is approved by a majority of voters served by RVTD in Jackson County.
In the 2004-2005 fiscal year, RVTD had 1,182,925 riders when fares were $1 each. In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, when fares were $2, there were 1,402,528 riders.
The district was established in 1975 and began offering bus service in 1977.
“We haven’t had an increase in our property tax for over 30 years,” said Julie Brown, general manager of RVTD.
Without the additional dollars, RVTD may have to drop scheduling routes that operate until 9 p.m. or later. Most routes would have to stop at 5 or 5:30 p.m., Brown said. In addition, Saturday service might also cease.
According to RVTD statistics, 42 percent of passengers use the service five days a week, 31 percent of passengers indicate they wouldn’t make the trip without the bus and 29 percent of passengers use the bus to go to work or college.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or [email protected]. Follow him at www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

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