Our View:Taxpayers should be thanked
April 17, 2019
Sweetwater County taxpayers deserve a hearty thank you from elected officials.
The county’s municipal governments received $5.3 million in excess taxes collected through the 2012 special purpose tax, commonly known as the sixth-penny tax. They’re not the only ones getting this windfall. Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County is set to receive $2.4 million, with Castle Rock Hospital District to get $238,000 and the county itself to get $440,000. No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of money.
This is beyond the original $81 million approved by voters in 2012 and includes interest collected on those funds. A kind of bonus for everyone involved. This is because turning off the tax isn’t an instantaneous process and requires the full amount to be collected before Sweetwater County Treasurer Robb Slaughter can start the process for ending it. Over collection will always happen.
As these groups decide how best to spend this money, many of them are working on proposals geared toward initiating another round of sixth-penny tax collection. Mark Westenskow, Green River’s director of public works, said the tax is needed to address the city’s most run-down streets. City Administrator Reed Clevenger has told previously told the Star the tax is needed to help the city address needs it otherwise can’t afford to.
The situation now is vastly different from when the tax was first used for infrastructure improvements.
At that time, the tax was sold as a temporary solution to combat impacts oil and gas industry brought during the industrial boom Southwest Wyoming experienced. We were told the county needed to show the state it had “skin in the game” to receive impact funding from the state at a time when the state was rightfully criticized for receiving hundreds of millions in mineral royalties without paying much back to the counties bringing that money to the state.
We’ve said this before, but another sixth-penny tax will be on the 2020 ballot. The tax has enjoyed a large amount of support from voters. While we all benefit from improved roads and better infrastructure, elected officials should be more vocally thankful for the source of much of that funding. It mostly comes from the pockets of the hard working men and women living in Sweetwater County.