Sixth Penny Sales Tax in Rock Springs, WY
A penny may not seem worth much when you spot one on the sidewalk. But collect enough pennies and you can build a cancer center, pave roads, improve the water system and open the door to the future. Not bad for a little copper coin, as Sweetwater County can attest.
Thanks to voter approval of two propositions in November 2012, Sweetwater communities are already enjoying tangible benefits of a temporary, one-cent sales tax. Known as the “Sixth Penny Tax,” or, officially, a Specific Purpose Sales and Use Tax, it will be collected for the next five years or so, and expires when projects totaling more than $81-plus million are completed.
The successful propositions include municipal infrastructure improvements in Rock Springs, Green River, Wamsutter, Superior and Grange, where much-needed work will be done on streets, water and sewer systems and more. The county government is also addressing infrastructure needs, especially an extension of Stagecoach Boulevard in Rock Springs, which will enlarge the busy road and provide new paving, sidewalks, curbs and bike paths to a booming area where even more growth is anticipated.
“We haven’t gotten carried away with grandiose projects,” says Dave Hanks, CEO of the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce, which avidly backed the tax. “These projects address needs, not wants. People understand that for a community to grow and expand, you must have good infrastructure.”
Why the name? Since Wyoming’s state sales tax is 4 percent, and a permanent fifth percent tax was already in place, the new temporary tax became the sixth percent tax. In a state with no state income tax and low property taxes, an occasional temporary sales tax is a good way to raise funds.
“Number one, people know with this tax exactly what they are voting for. It’s a self-imposed tax, that everyone, including people who are just visiting here, pays, so the burden doesn’t just fall completely on residents,” Hanks says. “Number two, there is a specific time frame. You can only collect up to the amount voted for, and you can project the date when the tax comes off. It’s not a forever thing.”
Projects Are Crucial
Items proposed to voters in 2012 came after long, collaborative planning by the county and its cities, which whittled down a long list to the most crucial needs, says Mayor Carl Demshar of Rock Springs, where, in addition to the Stagecoach Extension, four miles of backup water line are being built and the sewage treatment plant revamped and improved.
A new medical office building/cancer center is being built at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County, four facilities in the Castle Rock Hospital District will get major improvements, and new ambulances and other equipment will be purchased. The county’s smaller communities will see important infrastructure upgrades.
“It’s going to be a long drawn-out process to get all this done, but the larger communities are well on their way, and the smaller communities are working out the details of their projects,” Demshar says. “I really believe the people of Sweetwater County understand the value of the sixth penny and what it has done for our communities.”
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