Casper Launches Optional One-Cent Sales Tax Education Program
The City of Casper has launched its campaign to educate the residents of the city, Natrona County and other municipalities in the county about the Optional One-Percent Sales Tax up for renewal in the general election in November.
"One-percent has been a staple in our community for a long, long time since the late '70s," City Manager Carter Napier said at a news conference at City Hall on Thursday.
"As a matter of fact, the building we're sitting in right now was constructed with one-percent funds at least in part, if not in total," Napier said.
One-percent sales tax revenues have paid for many of the water lines, police cars and fire trucks, he said.
State law imposes a 4 percent sales tax statewide and distributes much of the revenues back to the counties, but allows counties to raise that by up to 2 more cents. The optional sales tax in Natrona County is sometimes referred to as the "fifth-cent" tax.
Casper uses its share of optional one-cent sale taxes only for capital projects. Some smaller municipalities use the revenues for operations. The revenues are distributed to the local governments by a formula based on their populations.
Voters approved the fifth-cent renewal in 2014 with 71 percent of the vote.
Four years ago, proponents of the fifth-cent projected it would raise about $15 million a year, for a total of $60 million for the cycle, Napier said.
But the economic downturn led to less buying and the revenues were projected to drop sharply. The economy has recovered somewhat, so Napier estimated the total revenues would be about $55 million for the cycle.
Napier estimated revenues from the Optional One-Cent Sales Tax No. 16, if renewed, would be about $12 million to $13 million a year, for a total of about $50 million.
Possible capital projects in the next cycle may be a new police station, Napier said. The next one-percent cycle wouldn't pay for all of it, but it could initiate the process by covering possible land acquisition and design costs, as well as water line and street projects.
In its educational program, Napier said the city will erect posters saying, "Your Community. Your Future. Your Voice. Worth every penny."
It will send surveys to county residents asking what they would like. The city manager's office also has created a website with information about past projects, he said.
Napier said public employees cannot campaign for a political issue that will affect them.
They can only inform and educate, he said. "We cannot ask community for a vote or solicit votes. You will not hear city staff, and I'm sure county staff out there trying to bargain for votes, solicit for votes, ask for votes."
The materials such as the surveys -- printed at city cost -- and the website will be of an educational nature, Napier said. "And that really is all we can do."