Rock Springs Council Rejects Tax Increase Information Campaign

Rock Springs Council Rejects Tax Increase Information Campaign

SWEETWATER COUNTY — The Rock Springs City Council unanimously voted to reject a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the County and City of Green River on a one-cent general purpose sales tax informational campaign at its meeting tonight.

Both the Sweetwater County Commissioners and Green River City Council unanimously approved entering into the MOU at their meetings today.

Under the amended MOU, each entity would be required to pay $10,000 toward creating informational brochures to educate residents about the general-purpose tax.

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During the Sweetwater County Commission meeting this morning, Sweetwater County Deputy Attorney John DeLeon said the MOU has been reviewed by both cities and the county and everyone appeared to be on board with the language.

The Rock Springs City Council tabled a motion earlier this year to enter into the agreement because it wanted a recommendation from Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill.

Cities and counties can use special-purpose tax funds to provide informational brochures on the initiative. However, they were not sure if the same could be done for a general-purpose tax.

DeLeon said the cities and the county were advised by Hill that they can use funds to provide the public with information about the general purpose tax, but cannot use it for marketing or advertising the initiative.

Vocal Opposition

Councilor Keaton West noted the board already voted down placing the general-purpose tax on the ballot, so why would it contribute money toward providing the public with information.

West added the Council is still waiting for information about how the money will be spent and he doesn’t understand why Rock Springs is always expected to take the lead on these initiatives.

“There are no definitive answers and that’s hard for the public to buy into. That’s hard for our own governing body to buy into… ” West said. “There’s a lack of leadership and this is going to ultimately fail.”

I will not be supporting spending money on something that we didn’t approve 77 days ago. There are only 42 days to go and I do believe this is going down in flames. 

~ Rock Springs City Councilman Keaton West

Councilor Rob Zotti said Green River and the county are asking Rock Springs to spend money on an informational campaign that is undefined at this point.

“The whole thing is a disaster in my opinion,” Zotti said. “There’s a tremendous lack of leadership and no one really wants to take the charge and run this… It’s been quite embarrassing when I talk to constituents and they are asking me questions, that should be basic questions, that I don’t even have the answer to.”

Mayor Tim Kaumo said he knows the whole process has been frustrating. But he’s afraid if this initiative fails they could lose credibility and risk the special-purpose tax failing at the voting booth.

“I know the intent is good. I know the way it was brought out might have been shady at best,” Kaumo said. “I have no other option other than to see this through,”

However, he was the only person on the Council to vote in favor of the resolution. Council David Halter abstained, and everyone else voted against the motion. The motion failed. 

Green River Vote

Meanwhile down the road, the Green River City Council tonight voted unanimously to approve the MOU with very little discussion.

Councilor Gary Killpack called the general-purpose tax “an excellent” measure because tourists and visitors to Sweetwater County will be adding to the coffers.

City Administrator Reed Clevenger said the tax revenues generated from tourism by the increase could boost the bottom line by 20-30 percent alone.