News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Governments ready to start receiving extra tax revenues
Apr 10, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
County government is ready to receive revenue from the 1 percent sales tax increase that took effect April 1.
Residents approved the increase to a 5 percent sales tax in November, when they voted 8,390 to 8,055 for an optional 1 percent added sales tax on goods other than groceries.
Fremont County's six municipalities and the county will split the tax revenue, which must be spent on infrastructure such as roads, sewers and water lines.
The tax will be up for a vote again in 2016.
Retailers began collecting the extra 1 percent tax at midnight April 1. They will send the special tax revenue, along with other sales tax income, to the state every month.
State government must then tally up the revenues and allocate them to the entities that will receive them.
County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger said the whole process means local governments could wait up to 90 days to receive the first wave of tax revenue. Fremont County will recognize revenue from sales tax collected between April 1 and June 30 during the current fiscal year.
The Treasurer's Office has projected earning about $1 million in revenue from those three months alone. During the next fiscal year, however, the county government expects to receive about $4 million -- well above the $3.4 million a year estimated before last year's vote.
Fremont County commissioners voted unanimously on March 12 to establish a special revenue fund for the optional 1 percent sales tax income, and the Treasurer's Office has already acted on that directive.
"The account's set up, and we're ready to start receiving some money," Harnsberger said.
County transportation superintendent Dave Pendleton is establishing a citizen committee to advise his department on its spending of the revenue from the optional 1 percent sales tax.
Pendleton said the committee will be comprised of 10 people, or two from each commission district. His goal is to have a balance of people from rural areas and municipalities.
Committee members include Donald Schmidt and John Smith from District 1, Brian Warner and Dean Vonkrosig from District 2, Robert Confer and Bob Hargis from District 3, Ron Hansen from District 4, and Thad Dockery and Robert Townsend from District 5. One seat remains open in District 4.
Pendleton said the committee members cover a good cross section of the community, and he appreciated that they were willing to commit their time to serve the community, especially because few people applied for the group.
He said the first committee meeting will be 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. April 15 at the Lander Library.
At the first meeting, transportation personnel will explain the criteria involved for evaluating an infrastructure project.
Pendleton said the public is welcome to attend to hear the presentation and ask questions about the criteria.
The committee will then determine which criteria, such as public safety or convenience, are most important.
Next, transportation personnel will score all the possible infrastructure projects based on how they fulfill each criterion. After that, the county department will rank the projects and bring the list to the citizen committee.
The group will meet a second time to evaluate and comment on the evaluations.
Pendleton said the citizen committee's final list of priorities will go to the Capital Improvement and Maintenance Program's long-term committee, which looks at all county projects and determines how they can be funded.
The commission will have to give the final OK before work can be done.
Pendleton cautioned that residents might not see dirt moving for some time on projects funded by 1 percent sales tax money. After the decision-making process, projects go through a design and bid process that can take up to two years.
Fuel tax income
The Wyoming Legislature in February raised taxes on gasoline and diesel from 14 cents per gallon to 24. The raise takes effect July 1.
Estimates predict the tax hike will raise about $71 million for state, county and municipal roads in fiscal year 2014. About two-thirds of the income will go to the Wyoming Department of Transportation; Wyoming counties will receive $16 million all together and municipalities will see about $6.7 million.
The Fremont County Treasurer's Office expects the state fuels tax to bring $420,000 more in income to the county in fiscal year 2014 than in fiscal year 2013.