Powell, WY


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Powell leaders want voters to mull 1-cent tax

Citing a grim financial picture, city of Powell leaders want Park County voters to consider passing an additional, ongoing 1-cent sales tax in a special election this November.

“Why haven’t we ever tried at least to put it before the voters?” Powell Mayor Scott Mangold asked Park County, Cody and Meeteetse leaders during a meeting last week.

Powell City Administrator Zane Logan said the city’s budget for the coming year is “the worst I’ve ever seen” in nearly 20 years of work.

“It’s to the point where there is no fat, there is no extra anymore,” Logan said.

Mangold said the city is “running into problems not only with our aquatics center but our golf course.”

He said he’s concerned about swimming and golfing becoming too expensive for Powell residents if projected expenses are met only by increasing user fees.

Already, “Powell people don’t golf there (the Powell golf course). People can’t afford it,” Mangold said. Other budget concerns he cited were rising gas prices, already frozen city employee salaries and a lack of money to widen and fix some Powell streets.

“For us to fix our streets, it (the cost) goes up a big margin every year and as we’ve noticed, the legislators aren’t willing to really help us out a whole lot,” said Mangold.

This winter, the state Legislature approved an additional $45 million in funding for local governments, but rejected a proposal by Gov. Matt Mead to provide governments with an ongoing stream of funding from severance taxes, which would have provided about $52 million.

Mangold described going without the optional fifth-cent sales tax — which has been adopted in all of the state’s 23 counties except Park, Fremont and Sublette — as governing with “one arm tied behind our back.”

Powell leaders cited a recently-completed city-wide survey in which 52 percent of respondents said they would rather pay for projects through a 1-cent tax, as opposed to not paying at all (44 percent) or having increased utilities (4 percent). In that survey, residents ranked funding for the Powell Golf Course as the lowest of their priorities.

For a special election to be held this November, at least two of the three municipalities — Powell, Cody and Meeteetse — and Park County commissioners would have to support sending a fifth-cent tax proposal to the voters.

Powell’s pitch was met with a mixed response at a joint meeting on Thursday.

Park County Commission Chairman Bucky Hall said he personally was “very supportive of putting it in front of the voters.”

Commissioner Tim French, however, said after the meeting that he was “totally opposed to it and I will not vote for it.”

“When you use that money up (from a 1-cent optional tax), then it still won’t be enough. They’ll want more because there’s always some project they’ll want to do,” French said.

Meeteetse Mayor Andy Abbott indicated he was supportive of asking voters for the tax, citing the amount of money the 1-cent can bring for local governments.

Cody Mayor Nancy Tia Brown said her city has thought about the idea of a fifth-cent, but said she would need more feedback from citizens before feeling comfortable enough to move forward.

“The best way to do it is to ask every one of your citizens,” offered Mangold. “You can do it in November when everyone goes to the polls.”

Cody City Councilman Charles Cloud indicated he was supportive of the general idea of a fifth-cent, which would be collected and distributed across Park County.

Citing a lack of help from the Legislature, “At some point in time we have to take care of ourselves and fund ourselves so we can take care of the projects we need to take care,” Cloud said, adding, “We’ve got roads that need to be fixed.”

Commissioner Dave Burke said that if the money was earmarked for infrastructure “it would be much better received” by voters.

Cody Councilman Steve Miller echoed those remarks, cautioning that many organizations will want a portion of the potential money in exchange for their support of the tax.

“Pretty soon, it’s gone, no matter how you figure it. So the long and the short of it, if we’re serious, as Dave (Burke) said, committing it to infrastructure, that’s what we need to do,” he said.

Miller said he’d only support such a tax if the projects that would be funded with the money were specifically spelled out to voters as they are with capital facilities (specific purpose) taxes.

Previous such taxes passed by county voters funded the construction of the Park County Law Enforcement Center in 2002 and the new Powell pool, Cody library and Meeteetse pool renovations in 2006. A proposed capital facilities tax for West Park Hospital failed badly at the polls in November.

As to why Powell is seeking an optional fifth cent this time, Logan said the concern with capital facilities taxes is that “we keep putting money in capital, but how do you maintain it?”

A fifth-cent tax would continue until voters rejected it, going up for re-authorization two years after its first passage, then every four years after that.

Mangold said conservatively, a 1 cent tax would bring around $471,428 per month, with somewhere between 25 to 30 percent borne by tourists. He said the 1 cent specific purpose tax that funded the pools and library in the county cost the average Park County resident $16.72 per month.

Mangold conceded the tax would impact some individuals, such as farmers, “but if we can lower the cost for some of the services we are providing, that could help out the income-challenged.”

Powell City Councilman Don Hillman said he thinks people in Park County want nice things, but are realizing that with oil and gas not as high as it once was, “we can’t afford that stuff anymore.”

“We’re going to have to have our ducks in a row. This isn’t going to be an easy sell,” Hillman said.

“If they don’t vote for it, then I guess we just don’t fund it,” Logan said. “We don’t have the money any more.”


  • posted by Steve Moseley

    May 02, 2011 7:05 pm

    Good, bad or indifferent, reality of life in Nebraska is that virtually every community...from Omaha to the smallest no-horse burg...has a permanent municipal sales tax on top of what the state already collects. What we envy is northwest Wyoming's ability to make so many tourists kick in their 'outside' dollars whether they want to or not. That 25-30 percent generated by people from elsewhere beats our (justifiably) tourist-barren flatlands in which pretty much every dime of sales tax comes out of a Nebraska pocket. We would probably take Wyoming's tourons and the financial benefits that come with them if we could, unless we had to take wolves into the bargain. In that case we'll pass. We Nebraskans would rather pay all our own sales tax and leave the Forever Wolf War to you good folks.

  • posted by Powell REZ

    April 29, 2011 11:50 am

    Running into problems with the Aquatic Center huh?? The citizens of Powell NEVER wanted the center to begin with!!! The leaders of Powell shoved this down everyone's it is having problems and want they you to pay even MORE for it???? Are you kidding me?? Wake up citizens of Powell!! You have a voice come election time....BOOT THESE PEOPLE OUT OF OFFICE!!

  • posted by Salty Dawg

    April 28, 2011 11:10 am

    I CONCUR....LOVEOURCOUNTRY..And it starts right here in Powell.

  • posted by loveourcountry

    April 28, 2011 4:42 am

    Let me get the straight. Since the voters have voted down the 1 cent tax on some projects the Mayor now wants to just take it. That way THEY can choose where the money will go. Are you out of your minds ? Do you think we will vote this insane idea in? You think we have trust that you would spend this money wisely? Good grief is it 2012 yet?

  • posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    April 27, 2011 5:55 am much for being so called "conservatives",after blaming those hated tax & spend Liberals,looks like some house cleaning needs done in your own back yards.Whatever happened to being Republican "conservatives",like you all claim to be,looks like it's more do as I say,not as I do.Maybe you all can get Al Simpson to help you out with money problems,since people think he is some guru about controlling spending...theoretcally.

  • posted by clipstein

    April 27, 2011 3:44 am

    Isn't this more about malfeanance than???
    AT what point are the city manager, police chief going to be out of jobs????The mayor and city council recalled?????
    All of them were told including the paper that the fiber, pool, plaza taxpayer, outhouse were delusions and would break the town....... You tried to destroy a business, the owner and now you want more for saying it and now you have the guts to ask for more...... if the private sector had done what you have they would be in jail......
    Where is Josh??????? the last one cent hurt this town. the amount of sales tax collected went down and now you want to chase more business to billings........
    It is going to happen again and one of these days you will have to drive to billings to get milk and the papers will have no one to advertise....... bye

  • posted by Mark

    April 26, 2011 12:26 pm

    If you want us to pay the 1% tax you'd better tell us exactly where you're going to spend it and what you'd be cutting out without that 1%. I don't want to hear that it's for a street project, and then see you spending 5 million on golf course renovations. Be straight with us, and we'll help you out, but Mangold, we want you to govern with one hand behind your back, instead of spending money with both hands.

  • posted by Greg

    April 26, 2011 11:00 am

    Concerned about swimming and golf and not Healthcare? Interesting

  • posted by Dewey

    April 26, 2011 9:56 am

    Instead of reinventing the wheel ( we do too much of that already around here ) , local leaders might want to have a look at Natrona County's longstanding and successful 1 Cent Option history and what it has achieved , even during the oil Bust years..

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