7th cent is a good idea
For the last 40 years Wyoming governors and Wyoming Legislatures have been warned repeatedly (it feels like annually) about the state’s over-reliance on tax revenue from the extraction industry and the need to increase and diversify the state’s revenue streams.
They have avoided the inevitable by peddling feel-good ideological myths and snake oil solutions (cryptocurrency, anyone?) in the hopes that the next energy boom will arrive before the warnings become reality.
Reality, however, has been accelerated by the predicted collapse of the coal industry, compounded by the COVID-19-related recession. In August the governor was forced to cut $250 million from the state budget, with heavy hits to education, health, corrections, and family services. You know, little things. He is expected to announce more cuts soon.
Teton County can’t afford to make the same mistake.
When our elected officials and public servants — the people we have entrusted with the fiscal health of our community — raise alarm about the need for more revenue in order to maintain basic services, we should respect their expertise and heed their good faith recommendations, lest we fall into the same kick-the-can-down-the-road wishful thinking that continues to paralyze the state.
Vote for the seventh cent of sales tax so our elected officials have the resources and budget they need to provide the level of services we expect and rely on our local government for.
7th cent is a bad idea
A seventh cent for our local sales tax? It’s a poor idea.
Sales tax is highly regressive, and an increase will mostly impact our poorer residents and folks on fixed incomes who are already struggling with our high cost of living — 61% above the national average.
Many of our local businesses are already hurting because of the pandemic. Some won’t survive. Others who opened are facing very tight margins due to forced distancing that reduced customer volumes.
The increase could impact local retail outlets by further prompting customers to shop out of state or go online.
Wyoming is facing a critical $1 billion shortfall in the state budget. As the Legislature and governor consider options for new revenue sources, including raising the state 4% sales tax, could Teton County find itself with another 1 or 2 cents imposed on top of the 7%?
Current sales tax revenues do not seem to support the grim warnings of some of our local officials. For the prior fiscal year (2019-20) which ended this June 30, Teton County received $8.5 million from our current 1% optional operating sales tax. That is $0.4 million above tightened projections and level with the previous year’s income.
For this current fiscal year we only have returns for July. That month’s sales tax returns are down 16%. We don’t know how the rest of the year will pan out. Perhaps our longer fall tourist season will help. However, local government should shore up their budgets like folks in private households: Draw on savings if necessary, and trim spending to match income.
Fifty years ago Teton County was the poorest county in Wyoming (Total assessed valuation was only $18 million). To assist our ability to provide services and infrastructure for a growing tourist economy, the Legislature approved my initial proposal to allow local citizens to vote for and impose additional sales tax. I am proud of the fiscal well-being that this brought to Jackson Hole and communities across the state.
Thanks in part to sales tax income, our local governments have become quite prosperous. Last year the town of Jackson enjoyed a total budget of $64 million with an identified resident population of 10,429 (2018). That equates to $6,136 revenue per resident. (But as a gateway community, don’t we have to provide for hordes of visitors? Definitely.) I looked at the budget for Cody, a gateway for Yellowstone. Its town revenues per resident were $3,815. Are folks in Cody dissatisfied with their town’s budget?
In the past decade, income and spending have nearly doubled in the town of Jackson and Teton County. We are indeed blessed with quality levels of service and support in our community. However, let’s not become addicted to bigger and bigger government and spending. Taxpayers should not be looked to as continuous ATMs for local government. Let’s use common sense and balance spending with income like folks in the private sector.
John F. Turner
A penny moves people
We all have places we need to be: work, home, school, errands, fun adventures, doctor’s appointments, kids’ school sports and back again. We are on the go every single day. Transportation issues affect all of us, and we have to continue to make investments every year to see the planning and progress this community needs.
If transportation is going to have the same resources and planning as housing, one path forward is the general penny. Supporting this penny and its funding will ensure that our town and county budgets can prioritize transportation.
Hire a transportation director. This critical step has been needed since the adoption of the Integrated Transportation Plan. The hiring of a transportation director provides the necessary structure and leadership needed to ensure that our priorities work together under a leader of different departments.
We have to intensify efforts to implement the transit and active transportation elements in the Integrated Transportation Plan and the Comprehensive Plan.
We are way behind in goals, and benchmarks for certain aspects have long since passed. If our community is going to develop a multimodal regional transportation system, we have to have reliable funding.
A general penny can provide sustainable funding that allows us to hold elected officials accountable to the issues we need to see addressed for our community to thrive.
Achieving an ambitious community and regional vision for transportation will require additional funding. Securing funding now will help us begin to chip away at our goals and guarantee we do not continue to kick the can down the road.
The general penny on the Nov. 3 ballot is a vote to ensure we have the funding necessary to prioritize our community goals and have a voice in our future.
Dan Baker, Lake Creek Homeowners Association; Katherine Dowson, Friends of Pathways; Susan Mick, Teton County resident; Skye Schell, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance; Jared Smith, transportation engineer
Play by the rules
The Sept. 30 article in the News&Guide regarding the genesis of rumor that Town Councilman Jonathan Schechter would resign in favor of “the appointment of a young woman of color” was shocking. Jessica Sell Chambers, herself a candidate for the council, sought to bypass the democratic process and the will of the people to achieve some vague ideological end. One has to wonder about her commitment to democracy and, if elected, what questionable notion of due process she will bring to that office.
Perhaps the fact that Chambers has twice been unsuccessful in getting elected is due to her own philosophy and not some sinister plot to keep women out of office. I would remind her that our last mayor was a woman and the current chair of the County Commission is a woman, both highly competent and committed.
If women want to “break the glass ceiling” they have to play by the same rules as men. Leadership, values and ideas matter. Whining does nothing for the cause.
The quality of the Hole
With the Snow King expansion approved (though still able to be overturned during an objection period), and the Gill subdivision as well as population, building and other economic “growth” propositions coming into play time and again, Jackson Hole must never lose sight of what we value as a community. Putting nature and wildlife first has always been our priority. We can’t let this slip, and we must let newcomers understand the significance of our values, and what they can teach the rest of the world.
Continual growth used to stimulate the local economy (any economy) is finite. It picks away at our quality of life until we’ve squashed our proverbial golden egg.
It is a privilege to live so closely with wildlife, and it requires extreme discipline, responsibility and stewardship to ensure that this is a place for the natural world before ourselves. Protection of the natural world rather than economic growth must always remain the priority here. It is a wonderful quality of life if we can preserve it.
Mary Wendell Lampton
A season to remember
During a time when teenagers are lamenting the loss of so many things in their lives and opportunities for normalcy are so rare, the Lockhart family provided an unforgettable experience for the Jackson Hole High School and Middle School cross-country teams. The Lockharts opened up their ranch and allowed the team to plot out a 5-kilometer course and invited six regional teams to participate. The course was amazing, the racers had the best performances of the season, and the coaches were impressed with such a beautiful venue. Our Lockhart neighbors made our daughter’s senior season of cross-country a very memorable one!
Scott and Sammie Smith