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Voters back optional 1 percent tax

Nov 7, 2012 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Strong support in Lander and Riverton carried the day for the optional 1 percent sales tax.

For the most part, large margins in Fremont County's two largest municipalities overcame losses in rural, reservation and other municipal areas, according to unofficial results, which include absentee ballots and all precincts reporting.

There were 16,445 votes on the tax, with 8,390 (51.02 percent) for the proposition and 8,055 (48.96 percent) against it.

Lander precincts voted about two to one for the tax, and all but one Riverton precinct voted for the tax, though by narrower margins. The proposition lost in one Riverton precinct by four points.

Voters in every other Fremont County municipality -- Dubois, Shoshoni, Hudson and Pavillion -- voted against the tax. The margin was greatest in Dubois and Shoshoni where votes against the tax outnumbered those for it at about a three to two ratio.

Voters in precincts on the reservation, in Fort Washakie, Ethete and Arapahoe, voted nearly two to one against the tax.

Rural Fremont County precincts also tended to vote against the tax. The largest margins were in Crowheart, which voted 73.6 percent for to 26.4 against, and Atlantic City, where votes were 71.1 percent for to 28.9 against.

The Milford precinct and one in Big Bend bucked the rural trend. Milford voted for the tax with a five point margin but the difference was larger in Big Bend 1, which voted for it about three to two.

"I'm ecstatic," Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness said. "I'm really excited about getting another revenue stream to fix our streets and infrastructure."

Warpness said the money will pay for repairs to streets, sewers and water lines, but a committee of citizens would decide which streets the city would fix first.

Pure Gas Road and streets in the Sunrise Estates and Woodridge Estates subdivisions would likely be high priorities, he said.

Warpness expects Riverton will start receiving funds from the tax in April and work to begin soon thereafter.

"I'm glad the voters gave us the chance to do with the money what we said we're going to do," Lander Mayor Mick Wolfe said.

He added that Lander worked to inform voters about the tax.

"We tried to make sure everybody knew exactly what the tax would bring in and what we would do with it," Wolfe said.

The tax will bring total sales tax to 5 percent on most purchases. Some items, including groceries, livestock, farm implements and prescription drugs, will be exempt.

Twenty of Wyoming's 23 counties have already imposed the optional tax.

Fremont County commissioners voted to put the tax on the ballot this year. Leaders of the six municipalities in Fremont County -- Lander, Riverton, Dubois, Shoshoni, Hudson and Pavillion -- support the tax.

The tax is projected to generate $7 million a year. The county will receive about $3.4 million, and the municipalities will split the balance according to their populations.

The tax will be up for renewal in 2016.

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