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Recent Economic Report Shows Big Drop In Niobrara Sales Tax Revenue. But It's Not A Surprise.

Lusk, Wyoming

In a new report from the Wyoming Division of Economic Analysis, Niobrara County's sales and use tax dropped a little over 50 percent in the first three months of 2021 compared to 2020. But the decline is slightly misleading.

Pipeline construction in eastern Wyoming brought a huge boost to counties sales and use tax because supplies for construction came to the county, said Niobrara County Commission Chairman Patrick Wade. When coupled with an influx of workers, it led to a lot of revenue.

But Wade said it didn’t change the county’s perspective on spending.

"We're very used to operating very conservatively in Niobrara County, so we really, as commissioners, didn't change the way we operated at all," he said. "We knew it was a quick in and out project. We knew it would not last."

Wade said the county did have a specific purpose tax attached, so the money was helpful.

"It was going towards upgrading some things at our hospital, over and above what money normally flows in there. So it really helped speed that up, pay that project off [and] got a little ahead of schedule," he said.

Niobrara County's economy relies on energy, agriculture and tourism, but it typically collects the lowest sales tax revenue in the state.

Wade said sales and use tax levels are getting back to normal to pre-construction levels.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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