SWEETWATER COUNTY– With the City of Rock Springs suspending their Special Purpose Tax (SPT) Ballot Initiative due to COVID-19 Coronavirus economic concerns, the Sweetwater County Commissioners discussed the fate of the 6th penny tax during their meeting on Tuesday.
The commissioners all agree that without any Rock Springs projects on the ballot, the initiative will most likely not pass.
“It doesn’t stand a chance without Rock Springs,” Commissioner Wally Johnson said.
While Rock Springs voluntarily suspended their initiative, Green River also expressed concerns over whether now is the time for a special purpose tax.
However, Green River, Bairoil, Wamsutter, Granger, and Superior have agreed to wait for a month to see where the economy stands in May, and then revisit what they would like to do.
Though the commissioners agree that they do not believe the 6th penny will pass without any Rock Springs projects, they believe it should still be left up to the voters to decide if they want to pass it or not.
“I think it’s vitally important to put it out to the voters and let them decide,” Commissioner Jeff Smith said.
Chairman Randy “Doc” Wendling said that the projects on the initiative are still beneficial to the communities, and will also help bring work to the communities. He said the projects may provide people the opportunity to get back on their feet following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Commissioner Roy Lloyd questioned if doing a special ballot in early 2021 would be a better option than going to ballot in November. He said the commissioners have a responsibility to present the ballot to the public in a way that gives it the best chance of success.
If the initiative fails in November, the county and cities can go back out for a 6th penny a year later.
Sales Tax Revenue is Down
County Treasurer Robb Slaughter pointed out that with the current economic climate, sales tax revenue is already down 26 percent from where it was this time last year. Sales tax revenue is expected to decrease even more in the coming months, according to Slaughter and the Wyoming Department of Revenue.
Therefore, Slaughter said the duration of the tax would increase. For example, Slaughter said that based on the current sales tax revenue and the full projected $80 million 6th penny tax initiative, it would take 76 months to pay off rather than the previously projected 57 months.
Commissioner Smith said he appreciates that information, however, November is still eight months away and they cannot predict where the economy will be at that time. Therefore, he still believes they should move forward with the ballot initiative and let the voters decide what they want to do.
Commissioner Johnson also noted that with Rock Springs pulling their projects, the $80 million will be decreased, and therefore the initiative won’t be as much and it will take less time to pay off as a result.
Commissioners and Cities to Decide on SPT in May
Commissioner Lauren Schoenfeld pointed out that the state is pushing out a $1.26 billion stimulus package that could help pay for some of the infrastructure projects outside of roads. She said they do not know when this money will come through or if the projects will be covered, but that they could possibly be covered if they wait to go out to ballot.
Commissioner Johnson said they do not have any other choice than to go out to ballot, so long as the municipalities still want to in a month’s time, as it is the voters’ right to decide.
County Deputy Attorney, John DeLeon, said that to move forward, the county must put forth a resolution, as well as two-thirds of the cities.
The commissioners unanimously decided to revisit the 6th penny initiative at the first meeting in May and decide then whether or not to put forth a resolution.