MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – Persistent declines in property tax revenues spurred by the country’s economic instability have forced local municipalities to shore up their financial resources, while taking a hard look at non-essential expenditures and services.
Mountain Village has especially felt the heat brought on by a 15 percent drop in property tax revenues since last year, and last week met with the town’s other governing entity, the Telluride Mountain Village Owner’s Association (TMVOA) to discuss the future of one of the town’s non-essential albeit valued services. Dial-A-Ride, the free taxi service offered to residents living within town limits, must soon undergo a transformation due to budgetary constraints. Just what shape the service will take was the topic of discussion at a special joint meeting between Mountain Village Town Council and TMVOA board members last Thursday.
Dial-A-Ride’s $550,000 annual price tag has created a drain on the Town’s dwindling General Fund, and thus a joint task force comprised of TMV and TMVOA members was created this spring to identify and analyze options for preserving DAR through predictable, dedicated revenue streams. The five options created through that process, as well as a number of hybrid alternatives, were presented to Town Council at last Thursday’s meeting; and while no consensus was reached on the future of Mountain Village’s government-funded taxi service, the conversation is certainly underway.
The five options created by the DAR Task Force included a $23 monthly assessment to property owners’ TMVOA bills; a $49 monthly surcharge on all TMV utility bills; a 2 mil TMV property tax increase (or approximately $16 per $100,000 of value, which would have to go to MV constituents for a vote); a TMV or TMVOA-run fee for service structure that would cost as much as $10 per rider; or outsourcing the service to the private sector, which would charge riders around $8 per ride for the first two people and $2 for each additional passenger.
Dan Jansen, one of the TMV Council representatives to the DAR Task Force, explained at the start of the meeting that options were created in an attempt to save the sinking DAR service; however the option to completely abandon the service still exists.
“The majority of views are that it’s highly valued,” he said of Dial-A-Ride, “and so the Task Force intended to try to find a way to save it. That’s why all the options are how it can be preserved, but frankly, it’s not a critical service, and there is another option that says we just don’t have it.”
The tenor of the meeting seemed to reflect hope that a solution could be found, however, as the public and members of TMVOA and TMV Council discussed the matter for over two hours. A handful of new, “hybrid” options were tabled, including creating a pre-paid season pass for DAR service. The Task Force scheduled another special meeting this week to discuss the new options presented Thursday. A public meeting to discuss the outcome of the Task Force’s new findings was suggested for July. All present at last Thursday’s meeting impressed upon Mountain Village residents that their opinions are vital for coming up with a way to preserve the Dial-A-Ride service.
“Dial-a-Ride is ingrained in our culture here,” said TMVOA president Jonathon Greenspan. “But it’s only after we get feedback that we can start shaping what a solution could look like.”