Optional Municipal Tax Moves Forward In Revenue Committee; Could Threaten County Taxes

Sep 21, 2018

Credit Falmouth Public Library

The Wyoming Joint Revenue Committee has voted to move forward with an optional municipal tax. It would allow any Wyoming town or city to institute its own one-cent sales tax to fund specific projects, a new source of revenue proponents say is sorely needed.

Laramie Mayor Andi Summerville said the current options for local sales taxes are too volatile.

“The state used to provide a lot more options where a city like Laramie could go get funding for a fire truck or for a street project,” she said. "They’ve since taken a lot of that away because of the downfall, and so what we’re really looking for is just an option."

Plus, she said, the lack of revenues sources causes the county to lose autonomy.

But the Wyoming County Commissioners Association argued a city-focused tax would come at the expense of smaller towns and counties that rely on the pre-existing general and specific purpose local taxes for their own projects.

Pete Obermueller, executive director of the County Commissioners Association, said, “It separates the communities from each other and from the county, and leaves them on their own. It leaves small towns and counties in a position of not being able to have the revenue for the projects they need."

That’s because a voter could decide to not support a county-wide tax the next time it pops up on a ballot, naturally choosing only the municipal tax. The current local sales taxes are paid to counties and then redistributed based on population. A municipal tax could instead concentrate funds in towns with a larger population. 

After much back and forth, legislators decided to go ahead and approve the vote for further discussion during the next committee meeting in November, while offering potential solutions to appease both sides. That included making the general-purpose tax permanent and finding another way to get funds to less populated towns.