Our View: Sixth-penny tax use a tough sell
January 2, 2019
The sixth penny improvement tax is almost certain be on the 2020 ballot.
Both cities, as well as the county’s outlying towns, will need infrastructure improvements beyond what they can provide from their budgets. For Green River specifically, the city will need to start securing funding for its wastewater treatment plant and the improvement projects tax would make for an excellent source to receive some of that money. Beyond improvements, one idea that has come to our attention is the possibility of using the tax to fund economic development efforts within the county. This is something the voters of Goshen County have decided is in their best interests and have supported for more than a decade. That county has dedicated a quarter of a penny to the cause since 2006.
Currently, much of those efforts are being undertaken by the Rock Springs Chamber of Commerce, through its Sweetwater Economic Development Coalition. A good question is what could be accomplished with some added funding given to the cause.
Obviously, the coalition could hire another employee or two to more effectively tackle projects designed to attract more attention to our area. The funding from a sales tax would mean the cities and county could feasibly withdraw their financial support from the economic development agency without it folding, giving those governmental entities the ability to those resources elsewhere.
Of course, the main hurdle is convincing residents such a sales tax would be a benefit for them. For the improvement tax, this isn’t hard as someone can point to specific locations and say the sales tax had a hand in its existence. The city of Green River has done this with areas like Second South or the driving bridge connecting Expedition Island, thanking residents for the tax funding.
Using a portion of the same tax for economic development would not bring such tangible results, especially if vacant spaces in downtown Green River or Rock Springs remained vacant after residents approved a tax for economic development. The fact it would have to be separated from the standard infrastructure improvements would also make it more difficult for residents to swallow -- take what happened when the Green River Police Department was placed on the ballot. Having a sales tax support economic development would be a tough sell. And if it happened, residents would have to see the fruit coming from that tax first hand if there’s any hope for continued support.