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May 10, 2012 8:00 am

EDITORIAL: Voters to decide on local sales tax

Written by Ilene Olson

Park County voters will be asked in November whether they are willing to pay a 1 cent tax for four years to help pay infrastructure costs for the county and its municipalities.
Because all of that 1-penny tax would go to local governments, it would provide nearly as much revenue locally as the 4 percent sales tax now assessed by the state of Wyoming. Seventy percent of the existing 4 percent sales tax goes to the state, with the remaining 30 percent going to county and municipal governments.

The joint group of local government officials working to put the tax on the ballot has done its homework. Recently, the group presented comprehensive information to the Park County Commission and the Powell and Cody city councils. All three local governments voted to put the issue on the ballot.
A similar presentation was scheduled to go before the Meeteetse Town Council Wednesday night.
In its presentation, the group cites several good reasons for passing the tax: rising fuel costs that are increasing operational costs for local governments, aging and expanding infrastructure, uncertain revenue streams and unpredictable federal funding.
The committee also notes a reluctance by the Wyoming Legislature to help communities that are not helping themselves as much as they can. That includes passing a fifth-penny tax. In Park County, that is estimated to generate about $6.5 million in revenue annually, with 30 percent of that coming from tourists and visitors.
As envisioned, the proposed tax would be used solely for infrastructure purposes.
Deferred maintenance is costly, the presentation said.
“Streets and roads are one of our largest infrastructures, and are the most costly to maintain,” it said.
The city of Powell maintains 45 miles of roads; the city of Cody maintains 68 miles of roads and Park County maintains 622 miles of roads, only 197 of which are paved.
The average cost of a road within a municipality, which includes curb, storm sewer, gutter and sidewalks, is $4 million per mile; for chip sealing roads, it is between $30,000 and $41,000 per mile.
Potential projects the tax could help pay for in Powell include street maintenance and improvements, water line replacements, storm drain improvements, sidewalk replacement and LED stoplight installation.
Cody and Meeteetse have similar lists of needs, and Park County has indicated it would use revenue from the tax to replace bridges and reconstruct and improve roads in the county.
The presentation noted that local governments have reduced staff to hold down costs while maintaining the same levels of service.
The group illustrated the impact of the tax on budgets with several examples. For instance, the proposed 1-penny tax would add $300 to the cost of a $30,000 vehicle; $6.99 to the cost of a $699 iPad and 10 cents on a $10 package of diapers.
Sales tax is not charged on groceries in Wyoming.
We agree that the proposal has merit and should go before voters this fall. We commend the Park County Commission and city councils for making that possible.
We ask that voters weigh the matter carefully in coming months. If approved, the tax could make a very big difference in local governments’ ability to maintain roads and other infrastructure that affect our quality of life, and in the way we — and others — perceive our communities.


1 Comment

  • Comment Link July 07, 2012 10:17 am posted by Christopher Kuntz

    Would we be having this discussion in Park County if the criminals that sit on these city/county commisions weren't addicted to spending tax revenue on such life support systems as pools, fiber optics and hockey rinks...?

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