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Powell, Cody officials talk to legislators

The 2014 Wyoming Legislature’s budget session was on the menu when Powell and Cody city leaders met for dinner with three legislators on Dec. 10.

Powell Mayor Don Hillman said the municipal officials wanted the legislators to “hear our pleas,” primarily about financial and solid waste issues.

Gov. Matt Mead asked local governments for input, and they requested $175 million in one-time spending during the next two years , according to the governor’s office. The current budget provided $155 million for local governments.

The proposal is to provide 60 percent of that for direct distribution and 40 percent for local consensus block grants. Doing that would provide “flexibility” for local governments to use the money where it is most needed, local officials said last week.

Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown said with a short session scheduled, this was the area to focus on to get something accomplished.

State Sen. Ray Peterson, R-Cowley, said while he favored direct distribution, he was not opposed to the SLIB program. However, he also said when he served on the Joint Appropriations Committee, legislators asked if cities and towns were using all their taxing options before asking for help from the state.

“It just depends if you see it as a tax or if you see it as an investment,” Brown said.

Peterson said he often asks people in District 19 when was the last time they passed a school bond. The state is paying for schools, buses and other education costs while local voters choose not to tax themselves.

If communities will not invest in themselves, it is difficult to ask legislators for money, Brown said. That was a point to consider before asking for more money from Cheyenne, she said.

“I don’t think it’s going to change,” Brown said.

She said costs rise, and

revenue must keep up with that.

“It’s important that we can move forward,” Brown said.

Cody also needs a proper storm sewer system, in part to slow wear and tear on curbs, gutters and streets, the officials said. They said areas added to the city are often without such infrastructure, and new residents want the city to provide them. An added 1-cent sales tax would also allow Cody to deal with that problem.

“I think it’s a balance,” Brown said. “When a community won’t make an investment in itself, it’s hard.”

She said “education” was needed to bring the financial realities to the attention of the people. If they understood how cities balance their general funds with enterprise funds and grant dollars, they may realize government entities need additional revenue. Once daily costs, such as payroll and other factors are weighed, they would realize how short of money governments actually are, Brown said.

That’s a difficult message to get across, she said.

“They don’t have the time,” Brown said. “They just want their city, their county, to run.”

Hillman said Powell was enduring some tough financial times.

“We’re just struggling to maintain what we have,” he said.

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