Voters renew cap tax

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County voters approved renewal of the Capital Facilities Tax by a vote of 3,421 for and 1,636 against — approximately 67 percent support — in a special election held Tuesday.

The official results include 29 of 29 precincts and absentee ballots reported. A total of 5,061 ballots were cast.

Sheridan County Election Supervisor Brenda Kekich said the election had decent voter turnout for being a special election, which typically draw lower voter turnout than a regular election.

Prior to the election, 14,957 voters were registered, meaning nearly 30 percent of registered voters cast a ballot. It will be a couple weeks before the county knows how many voters were newly registered.

Kekich said the 2009 special election for renewal of the cap tax had 3,517 ballots cast out of 15,106 registered voters that year, indicating that turnout was approximately 1,500 votes stronger in this year’s special election.

“That’s a pretty strong statement by Sheridan voters that they see the cap tax benefitting the whole community,” Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey said.

“There was a little bit of anxiety as there always is before an election, but especially this election given that the college bond issue went down so narrowly. Voters seemed to see a distinction,” Kinskey added.

Kinskey said he heard from one voter who voted against the college bond issue but for the cap tax. The voter said the cap tax was more fair because it is paid by everybody and not just property owners.

“What I will take away is that our constituency made a decision to invest in their community,” Sheridan County Administrative Director Renee Obermueller said. “Government doesn’t impose taxes. We offer a choice, and they get to choose. They chose the investment over not investing, and I think that speaks well of our community and the people who live here and appreciate what they have.”

The Specific Purpose Capital Facilities Tax, a one-cent optional sales tax, is used to support infrastructure improvements to roads, bridges, water and sewer systems in Sheridan, Dayton, Ranchester, Clearmont and Sheridan County.

The current $25 million Capital Facilities Tax passed in 2009 is expected to expire in summer 2014. The renewed cap tax will expire when $40 million is raised, which is estimated to take eight years.

Obermueller said sales tax revenues are up in the first quarter of fiscal year 2014, so the renewed cap tax could start being collected sooner than summer 2014.

The Wyoming Department of Revenue will be notified immediately of the renewal, and there will be no lapse in collection of the tax, Obermueller said. Since the tax is a continuation of a current tax, there will be no notification when the current tax is collected and the new tax begins.

Obermueller said she understands the frustration felt by people who voted against renewal of the tax because they wanted to lower the sales tax rate. Many who were against the cap tax argued that more than half of Wyoming’s 23 counties collect a 4 or 5 percent sales tax and appear to function well on that rate.

Voters in Sheridan County have voted to renew the cap tax continuously since 1989. The tax will not increase the sales tax over the currently assessed 6 percent tax, which consists of the four-cent state sales tax and two one-cent optional taxes.

Most years, approximately $5 million is collected in cap tax funds that can be used around Sheridan, Dayton, Ranchester, Clearmont and Sheridan County. Each year, the city receive approximately $2.5 million and the remaining $2.5 million is split between Sheridan County and its municipalities.

In total, over the life of the tax, the city will collect $22.9 million, the county will collect $12.7 million, Clearmont will collect $560,000, Dayton will collect $1.9 million and Ranchester will collect $1.9 million.

The cap tax must be used for specific infrastructure projects. Visit sheridancountycaptax.com for a list of proposed projects.

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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