It’s election day for the specific purpose excise tax, which collects one penny of sales tax for town and county projects, if approved by voters.
This election, voters can approve or reject funding for 10 public enterprises, from recycling infrastructure to stormwater treatment to fire trucks to wildlife crossings. The optional 1% charge on sales is collected as long as there are projects in the pipeline to fund. Otherwise, sales tax in Teton County drops from its current 6-cent rate to 5 cents per dollar.
“The beauty of it is, the citizens can choose,” Town Manager Larry Pardee said. “They get to say yea or nay.”
Voters can fill out their ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at either the Teton County Library or the Old Wilson Schoolhouse Community Center.
Those who haven’t registered to vote can still do so at the polls with either a Wyoming driver’s license or another government-issued ID and the last four digits of their social security number.
At around 5 p.m. Monday, Teton County Clerk Sherry Daigle said 2,426 people had voted early at the county administration building. That number does not include people who mailed in their ballots.
The SPET is already in place, so approving projects will not increase taxes. Rather, it will continue collection of the tax until it brings in enough money to fund the projects that pass.
At $77 million, this is the largest SPET ballot the town of Jackson and Teton County have ever presented. One penny per dollar generates about $15 million a year, so if all 10 projects are approved it will take about five years to fund them.
Some have asked why the town and county can’t finance some of these projects by other means, such as via their general funds. Officials say the SPET is just as valid a funding mechanism as any other, and that it is essential to local government operations.
Because it also brings in money from tourists, SPET, officials say, spreads the financial burden across everyone responsible for generating costs to the valley.
“It’s a great way to make sure that the funding is aligning with those who are creating the demand,” Town Councilor Arne Jorgensen said.
Four political action committees formed to campaign for four of the 10 SPET propositions.
A PAC advocating for a $4.4 million ballot measure to buy the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum a permanent home raised the most cash this election cycle, totaling $25,010.
The top contributor to the group was Marlin Risinger, who contributed $5,000, filings with the Teton County Clerk’s office show. Other top donors listed are John Lummis ($3,000), Jim and Maggie Hunt ($3,000), Don and Laurie Jaekle ($2,000), Diana and Tim Waycott ($2,000), Becky Kimmel ($1,000), Bill and Martha Best ($1,000), PAC chairwoman Clarene Law and Creed Law ($1,000), and County Commissioner Mark Newcomb ($1,000).
The “Friends of History on the Block” PAC, which advocates for purchasing a site for the history museum on the downtown block near Cafe Genevieve, also reported $200 in in-kind contributions.
A PAC advocating for citizens to vote “yes” on all 10 projects collected $12,480, all from individual contributors.
Top donors for the “Jackson Hole Votes Yes” PAC included Noa and Ted Staryk ($2,500), Christy Walton ($2,000), Liz Storer and County Commissioner Luther Propst ($1,000), Colby Cox ($1,000) and Story Clark ($750).
The “Safe Wildlife Crossings Jackson Hole” PAC formed to push for a $10 million proposition to build structures to allow animals to safely cross area highways. It didn’t raise any funding from individuals, but reported $8,000 in contributions from organizations. That included $2,000 from the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, and $1,500 each from the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Wyoming Wildlife Federation, The Cougar Fund and Ecotour Adventures.
The wildlife crossings group also reported $22,618 in in-kind contributions.
Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance Director Skye Schell, who is involved with the PAC, said that to be transparent, the PAC wanted to report the hours employees of the Conservation Alliance and Greater Yellowstone Coalition and paid canvassers spent on the campaign. But funding for those hours came from the individual nonprofits’ budgets rather than from the PAC’s fundraising.
A group advocating for the $22 million expansion of the Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center reported raising $3,300, all from individuals. Top donors included Ben Aufderheide and Mary Springer, contributing $1,000 each, and $500 from Rex Hong.
Reports detailing PAC expenses are due after Tuesday’s election.
— Allie Gross contributed to this story.