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July 12, 2012 9:57 am

EDITORIAL: District revenues are not Park County Commission’s business

Written by Ilene Olson

Citing concerns that some special districts may be collecting too much tax money and letting it build up in revenue reserves, the Park County Commission is seeking authority to limit the amount of tax money districts collect.

Commissioners last week voted unanimously to seek an opinion from the Wyoming Attorney General on whether the commission can force districts to collect fewer taxes. Commissioners have not said which districts they are concerned about.

Commissioners’ concerns are understandable, especially after hearing ongoing grumbling from taxpayers. Even so, they are overstepping their bounds. Special tax districts — such as fire, cemetery, conservation, hospital and college districts — are governed by boards, whose members are elected by the voting public. It is those boards’ responsibility to set district budgets and determine, within state-allowed limits, how much tax revenue the districts need to successfully meet their obligations and perform their duties.

It is not — and should not be — up to county commissioners to make those decisions. They don’t have the in-depth knowledge of planned projects or obligations that the district boards do. The commission’s desire to control that process brings to mind complaints of state and federal governments overstepping their bounds in dealing with local governments.

Taxpayers should contact members of a district board if they feel the district is collecting too much tax money. Through that process, board members can be informed when there are concerns, and they in turn can provide information to concerned taxpayers about how tax money is spent, or why it is needed in reserves.

The flip side of that coin is that district boards must be responsible about the amount of tax they collect, and taxpayers need to make the effort to be informed about which districts collect their tax money and who is serving on the boards that govern them.

This is the time of year when special districts publish their budgets in local newspapers. Citizens can watch for those published budgets to learn more about the districts’ revenues and expenses.

Commissioners also could help by providing annually an easily-accessible list of tax districts in the county, the mills each district collects and the total amount of tax dollars that represents, as well as a list of board members to contact in each district for more information.

That could have another benefit as well by making people more aware of district boards and budgets, and perhaps by encouraging some of them to run for seats on those boards.

Open seats on district boards will be up for election in November, and districts often struggle to find people willing to step forward to fill them.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link July 13, 2012 7:37 am posted by TB

    Too many taxes....? I smell greed,and as usual the RINO,s are guilty as charged again.

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