But before the proposal can head to the ballot, it first needs the endorsement of at least two of the three municipalities (Powell, Cody and Meeteetse councils) and the Park County Commission.
That endorsement process begins tonight (Tuesday), when members of a joint committee of county, Cody, Powell and Meeteetse government representatives will pitch the Cody City Council on backing the idea. Powell City Council members will be lobbied on Monday, May 7, tentatively followed by Park County Commissioners on Tuesday, May 8, and Meeteetse town council members on Wednesday, May 9.
According to a preliminary draft pitch for the tax that Powell Mayor Scott Mangold provided to the Tribune, committee representatives describe this tax as the way to “continue offering essential services and to fund our infrastructure needs.”
“Without this additional tax, we can’t envision meeting these goals in the future,” says the draft.
The resolution being considered says that current revenue from sales, use and property taxes, state coffers and other funding sources are not enough to meet the increasing demands and costs of continuing essential services. It says essential maintenance and repairs have been delayed.
The tax would generate an estimated $6.5 million each year, which would be divvied up among the governments by population. Somewhere around 30 percent of the tax would be paid by tourists, according to the committee’s pitch.
Park County is one of only three counties that does not currently have a general purpose option tax. The other two are Fremont County — which also is seeking the additional cent this year — and minerals-rich Sublette County.
The roll-out of the proposal comes after a year of discussions between leaders of the four governments that began when Mangold lobbied for the 1 cent tax during an April 2011 meeting.
In recent months, Mangold, Powell City Administrator Zane Logan, Commissioners Loren Grosskopf and Dave Burke, Cody City Councilmen Donnie Anderson and Steve Miller, Cody City Administrator Jenni Rosencranse and Meeteetse Mayor Andy Abbott and Meeteetse treasurer/clerk Angie Johnson have met to hash out the details of what a 1 cent tax would look like.
They came up with a draft memorandum of understanding and resolution that limits how the governments can spend the money if the tax passes. It requires that the tax be spent only on capital infrastructure and maintenance.
Infrastructure projects are defined in the resolution as including, but not limited to, “roads, streets, alleys, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, storm sewers, bridges, and water, sewer, and electrical projects.
“It does not include the construction of new buildings,” the document specifies.
Examples of maintenance include, but aren’t limited to, “oil, chips, grading H, asphalt, crack sealing, striping, concrete, slurry seal, sewer line relining, culverts, pipes, poles, cable, street lights, and transformers.”
The highest hurdle to get the proposal on the ballot may come from the Park County Commission.
“I’m not going to support it,” Commissioner Joe Tilden remarked during the commission’s April 10 meeting.
“I’m not going to support it (either),” followed Commission Chairman Tim French, who had promised to oppose it when the idea was raised last year. French cited concern that other spending would increase with the tax for infrastructure.
If Tilden and French vote against forwarding the measure to voters, it would take yes votes from the other three commissioners for the tax to make it on the ballot.
When a $14.2 million specific purpose tax for West Park Hospital improvements in Cody went to voters in 2010, it narrowly passed the commission by a 3-2 vote. That tax was defeated by voters by a 2-1 margin.
A group of Cody citizens had been putting together a proposal to put a $13.2 million specific purpose tax on the ballot this year for a Cody equestrian center and to-be-determined projects in Powell and Meeteetse. However, they put their plans on hold this winter in deference to the local governments’ pitch.
If the option tax makes it on the ballot and is passed by voters, it would last for four years, the resolution says. At that point, the local governments would decide whether to send it back to the voters for reauthorization for another four years.
State law gives the local governments the option of renewing the tax without another vote, but the cities and county pledge in their written resolution that they will not do that “for any reason.”