SHERIDAN — The specific purpose capital facilities tax, an optional one-cent sales tax, is up for renewal in a special election to be held Nov. 5.
The capital facilities tax is approved by voters for use on specific infrastructure projects in Sheridan, Dayton, Ranchester, Clearmont and Sheridan County. One hundred percent of revenues raised by the cap tax is used for projects such as road and bridge repair, water and sewer system updates and other infrastructure projects.
The current cap tax, approved by voters in 2009, is estimated to expire in May or June of 2014. The cap tax renewal is set for $40 million and expected to last approximately eight years.
“The cap tax is set for a specific dollar amount with no time limit,” City Clerk Scott Badley said. “How long it takes to collect is based on sales activity in the county.”
The cap tax differs from the one-cent optional general purpose tax that Sheridan also collects which is limited to a four-year time period with no set amount. That tax is up for renewal next year. The cap tax ceases to be collected once the set dollar amount is reached, so if the economy picks up, it could be reached sooner than predicted, Badley said.
Sheridan County voters approved a cap tax in 1998, 2003 and 2009.
Sheridan County Administrative Director Renee Obermueller said the cap tax has been crucial to providing a sustainable source of revenue for the city and county and its incorporated towns to conduct ongoing maintenance. Obermueller also stressed that projects are not created because the tax is passed. The tax becomes part of the city’s and county’s long-term planning and budgeting as they look at what capital improvements are most needed over the years.
“If it were not to pass, we absolutely would be going backwards,” Obermueller said.
The state of Wyoming levies a 4 percent sales tax and allows counties to assess up to 3 cents more. At this point, no cities or counties in Wyoming assess a full 7-cent sales tax, limiting the optional taxes to one or two cents, Badley said. The optional taxes can be a combination of resort, economic development, general purpose and capital facilities 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.
“If there ever was a good tax, this is a good tax,” City Councilor John Heath said. “All county residents see the benefits of the cap tax. It has far-reaching impacts.”
Supporters of the tax see it as a fair tax because it applies to all residents and also capitalizes on Sheridan County’s tourism industry. Since 1998, the cap tax has contributed more than $102 million to a variety of infrastructure needs.
Dissenters have said they feel the tax is becoming institutionalized, especially with the $40 million price tag this time around, which is higher than it’s been before and will take longer to collect.
Obermueller and Badley said the higher amount and thus potentially longer timeframe was set to enable municipalities to plan further out than five or six years. Both also added that the cap tax is essential in providing matching funds for state loans and grants, which enable larger projects to be completed.
A website — www.sheridancountycaptax.com — has been created that lists past and proposed projects, frequently asked questions, public meeting times and other tidbits about the cap tax.
Concerns have been raised that projects listed on the website are not as specific as years past, but Obermueller said fliers will be sent to all registered voters that list projects in more detail than the website allowed.
Proposed projects for the cap tax are set by town, city and county engineers and public works departments as they do annual budgeting. Projects proposed for the renewed cap tax include the North Sheridan Interchange, upgrades to the Dayton Lagoon and dozens more.
Several public meetings regarding the capital facilities tax have been scheduled and will continue to be scheduled.
• Check the website at www.sheridancountycaptax.com for more information about the capital facilities tax and public meeting times and locations.