On Tuesday, the Casper city council unanimously agreed to move forward with a cost-of-living increase of 3.5% for all city employees after the city had over $900,000 in surplus in sales tax revenue.

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The city anticipated earlier this year that sales tax revenue would bring at least $425,000, however, actual sales tax receipts through December showed that the city brought in $935,690.

Originally, the city was just going to give the increase to firefighters due to the agreed terms with the Fire Union 904, but because of a promise to the city earlier this year, the city felt the need to provide increases for everyone.

Providing the increase for firefighters would cost the city $106,350, doing it for Casper police too would cost $243,990, and doing it for all city employees would cost $633,356.

Jill Johnson, the financial services director with the city, said that due to high inflation numbers, especially in Wyoming and especially for groceries, a cost of living increase will be helpful for city employees.

Vice mayor Bruce Knell asked Johnson why there is higher inflation in Wyoming compared to the rest of the country, and she said she wasn't sure.

"I do not know the answer to that. I could do a little research to see what's different about Wyoming," Johnson said. "But I'm assuming that the gas prices if we look at gas prices here versus nationwide, I don't know if it's because we have more fuel here, though I believe we export most of it, so I'm not really sure why there is that big difference between Wyoming...just looking at inflation over time it's remaining high. Where we were told it was transitory, it is definitely not transitory, it is definitely very sticky. We are expecting inflation to remain high. Hopefully not in the 8% range, but maybe more in the four to 5% range over next year."

Knell said that they have an obligation to city employees to provide the increase.

"I would say this is certainly in our wheelhouse, this is what we promised our employees. Was that if we had that plethora in our sales tax that we would do this for them and so I think that as a council of our word, not only must we, but we should."

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