Voters deserve their voice on tax

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Matt Adelman

We totally understand the city and town government leaders desire to make sure their main source of funding – sales taxes – are highly stable going into the future. The optional fifth cent tax that voters have overwhelmingly approved every four years for as long as we can remember is a major component of that funding.
So the idea that the tax should be made permanent and not ever have to go to a vote of the public again is appealing . . . at least on the surface to those who have to sweat out a vote every four years. The anxiety, of course, comes from the fact the tax raises $4 million a year for the city of Douglas (of an $11 million budget this year) and $2.2 million for the town of Glenrock (with a $6.6 million budget this year), so the loss of that significant chunk of change for either municipality (or for Rolling Hills or Lost Springs, for that matter) would be devastating.
If voters ever eliminated it, city services would have to be severely curtailed, funding to outside groups would likely evaporate entirely, and road and water/sewer projects would be backburnered until they became crises. And the cuts would just get deeper from there if other sources of income didn’t increase or, worse, decreased as they tend to do in a cyclical economy like ours.
The impact to Converse County government would be much less drastic but still felt. The county’s income relies much more on property taxes than on sales taxes, while the opposite is true for cities and towns.
Voters for decades have been keenly aware of that situation. So it is no surprise they have supported continuing the tax on themselves even in years when the anti-tax sentiment seems entrenched in voters’ minds. Such was the case last fall, and municipal governments were on edge that it might be in danger this year. While the final vote was closer than in previous elections, it still wasn’t close; 62% voted to keep the tax another four years to 38% against (3,089 to 1,887).
The idea of asking the county commissioners to adopt a permanent sales tax here, rather than keep it as a voter-approved tax, has been around ever since the legislature changed the law to allow it many years ago. The proposal is making a comeback and picking up steam this year because that vote, as wide as it was, was still too close for comfort for city officials. The county commissioners, who are the only ones who can make it permanent, said they would only consider it if all of the towns agreed they wanted to go that route.
So the city and towns are drafting proposed ordinances to support the move. They will be voting on them during the coming weeks.
We oppose the effort not because we don’t support keeping the tax. It’s an important source of keeping our city and towns running. But voters have very little voice in how their government runs outside of the ballot box. This vote every four years gives them a direct voice into city and town priorities.
If the leaders cannot make the case every four years that they are spending the tax dollars wisely and that they are needed for basic operation and not just for wish-list or pork-barrel projects, then maybe voters should have an easy way to express their frustration at the polls.
We are not so concerned with the “anxiety” those officials face each election over the possible loss of the tax as we are with holding them accountable for the jobs they are elected to do. A vote on funding – a true pocketbook issue – is the best accountability out there.


Glenrock Independent

Physical Address:506 W. Birch, Glenrock, WY 82637 Mailing Address: PO Box 109, Douglas, WY 82633 Phone: (307) 436-2211

The Glenrock Independent is located in the Bronco Building

Office hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday - 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday - 9:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

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