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July 19, 2011 8:48 am

EDITORIAL: Reserve 1-cent tax for necessary county projects

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Park County residents haven’t approved a 1-cent sales tax proposal since 2006, but they’ve heard plenty of pitches in recent years.

Last year, local leaders talked about a temporary 1-cent capital facilities sales tax to pay for landfill transitions, such as a Powell transfer station, but the idea never made it to the ballot. Last August, voters did consider a $14.2 million tax proposal for West Park Hospital’s renovations, but they overwhelmingly defeated the measure with 67.7 percent of county voters opposed to the tax and only 32.3 percent in favor.

Which brings us to this year. In April, Mayor Scott Mangold advocated for an optional 1-cent sales tax — something 20 out of 23 Wyoming counties rely on for street maintenance, library books and other necessities. Unlike a capital facilities tax — also called a specific purpose tax — the 1-cent hike could perpetually fund specific government projects, if reauthorized by voters two years after its passage, then every four years after that.

In this editorial space in April, we also advocated for a fifth-penny tax, but stressed the importance of carefully weighing any proposal to make sure the tax is actually necessary and that money it raised would be spent prudently and on projects supported by the public.

We still believe that — which is why we’re wary of a recent pitch for a 1-cent capital facilities tax to raise $9 million for an indoor equestrian center in Cody and $4.2 million to be split among yet-to-be-named projects for Meeteetse and Powell.

If there’s any lesson from the failure of last year’s failed tax proposals, it’s that the entire county must believe a project is necessary in order for 1-cent sales tax to succeed.

Mayor Mangold recognized that earlier this year when he abandoned a call for a 2011 special election on a fifth-penny tax.

“While I’m sure that we could get a majority vote on the resolution (creating a special election this year), it is very important that we have everyone vehemently onboard and not dragged into the discussion,” Mangold wrote in May. “The City of Cody is a key on getting the project under way, and without their enthusiastic support, it won’t work.”

It’s unclear whether the City of Cody is ready to support this latest tax proposal.

“We have to maintain what we have and have that in good shape before we reach too far in building new things — not that I wouldn’t love to have those things,” Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown told the Tribune last week.

That’s something City of Powell leaders realize, too, as they must find ways to maintain the buildings they have, including the Powell Aquatic Center, which is projected to run a $275,000 deficit this year.

The aquatic center was built thanks to a successful 1-cent capital facilities tax approved in 2006, which raised $9 million for Powell’s pool, $2 million for Cody’s library and $2 million for Meeteetse’s pool. That tax passed with 58 percent of county voters’ approval, which shows Park County voters are willing to take on an additional 1-cent tax if it goes toward projects they support.

The extra 1-cent tax is a viable option for communities to obtain needed funds, especially in Park County, where tourists visiting Yellowstone National Park help contribute toward our tax base.

However, as voters made clear last year, a 1-cent sales tax should be reserved only for projects that residents countywide deem essential or worthwhile. The proposal for an equestrian center in Cody appears to be limited in scope of appeal and likely would not be supported by the general populace of the county.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link July 19, 2011 2:20 pm posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    “We have to maintain what we have and have that in good shape before we reach too far in building new things — not that I wouldn’t love to have those things,” Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown told the Tribune last week.

    Really...looks like she needs to start giving lessons to all the TAX & SPEND RINO'S..IN THE AREA.If the editor of the Cody paper wants a horse barn..than he can crusade the people of Cody for it...the rest of are TAXED ENOUGH ALREADY...TEA..get it.

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