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Optional tax 'worth a trial run'

Oct 21, 2012 - Jim Gores, Riverton


Fremont County voters are being offered a unique opportunity to make positive improvements to our roads, streets, and the utilities under them. Their crumbling condition trumpets the need. The optional 1 percent sales tax proposed on this year's ballot gives us that opportunity to make a positive difference.

The proposed sales tax is the only pragmatic way to address our county-wide need road and street improvements. No one is going to bail us out of the infrastructure decline that we have accumulated. We are one of only three counties who do not have the optional 1 percent tax in place. When our elected officials approach the state for grants to help repair our infrastructure they are often asked why the state should help when we aren't willing to do everything available to help ourselves.

Each community has literally millions of dollars of foregone repairs that are growing larger each year. The county alone has 930 miles of roads, including those on the reservation, and a $ 70 million dollar backlog of road and bridge deficiencies. Riverton, Lander, Dubois, Hudson, Pavillion, and Shoshoni, all have proportionately similar deficiencies.

The county will get $3.4 million a year if the tax passes, Riverton and Lander will each receive about $1.5 million.

The smaller communities will get a proportionate share based on their population. In total the taxes would generate about $7 million per year. While that is a very large step forward, no one should be of the illusion that this will solve our deferred investment over the four years the tax would be in effect.

A million dollars will only pave about a mile of county road. In town, with curb gutter and utilities, a million dollars might get us 1/2 mile of street. The improvements on Burma Road and Lyons Valley Road are a good example of what can be done when we have the opportunity.

We, as the primary users of our infrastructure system, hold the responsibility to pay the cost. Should the 1 percent sales tax initiative pass, visitors to our communities will also get to chip in a little as well, just as we do when we go to Casper or elsewhere and pay their optional 1 percent sales tax. Visitors and locals alike will get to share in the cost. Presently, we get back less only 30 percent of the sales tax now collected in Fremont County. With the 1 percent optional tax, we keep all of the funds. As with the current sales tax, farm equipment and groceries are not taxed.

Our elected officials have pledged that these funds will be used only on roads, bridges, streets, and associated water and sewer.

Voting for the 1 percent optional tax is an opportunity worth a trial run. If it passes, it won't automatically continue. It has to be voted on each four years. If, at the end of four years, we believe that these tax funds were well used we can approve it again, if not, we can decline another four year round. In this year's election it is definitely worth a try.

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