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1 percent tax needed, leaders say

Oct 3, 2012 - By Emily Etheredge, Staff Writer

City administrator Steven Weaver sees the optional 1 percent sales tax on next month's general election ballot as an opportunity to protect the city's infrastructure.

Weaver told Riverton City Council members that he has been going around Riverton with Mayor Ron Warpness giving presentations about the tax that will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

"People have commented that it is misleading because it is more than 1 cent," Weaver said. "It is really 1 percent and would be added to the current 4 percent tax we already have in place."

In his presentation, Weaver said there are 23 counties in Wyoming that have the 1 percent optional tax and three that do not.

The tax would provide funding to the county along with its six municipalities for "streets, roads, bridges, water and sewer utilities."

If the tax is approved, the extra 1 percent would raise the county's total sales tax to 5 percent for most purchases except groceries, which are tax-exempt by state law.

"The tax would be in place for four years," Weaver said. "Voters would then get the opportunity to determine whether or not they want to continue with it every four years."

Weaver said the city has 65 miles of roads that were mostly built between 1956 and 1964 and have experienced considerable deterioration over time. He equated the upkeep of city roads to having an oil change in a vehicle, explaining that regular maintenance on roads is a requirement.

"If we don't take care of our roads and work hard to keep them up, the cost will be greater in the future," Weaver said.

During the meeting, Alan Moore said if you are a member of a community you must be willing to pay to make the community work.

"I think the 1 percent optional tax is the most fair way for everyone in the community to pay their share," Moore said. "You can't have a community without an economy. Our civic protections depend upon the streets as the byways of protection. It is up to us individually to pay our share."

Councilman Richard Gard said everyone is always looking for someone else to pay the burden.

"If we are the ones using the roads, then we are the ones who should be paying to fix them," Gard said. "We aren't taking care of our responsibilities. If we drive on the roads and use them then we need to spend money to take care of them. I think when people realize that is what the tax is for it becomes a much fairer tax."

Warpness said he had been asked why money the city spent on the 422 E. Main St. property could not be used for street maintenance.

"I try to tell everyone that if we used the money that we spent on that property, it would cover about half of a block of costs in roads," Warpness said. "We do not have the income to provide for the needs of the roads."

Councilman Lars Baker said he supports the 1 percent optional sales tax and likes how everyone shopping in Riverton or Fremont County would contribute to the tax.

"If someone is here on a basketball tournament or traveling through, they will spend money that will contribute to the tax," Baker said. "If we improve our infrastructures in Fremont County it will draw more people to come visit, which leads to more revenue."

Weaver concluded his presentation by asking residents living in Riverton to drive or walk around the city to observe the conditions of the streets.

"We need to take care of our investments," Weaver said.

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Riverton City Council