Riverton to push for right to tax itself

Apr 21, 2013 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The city of Riverton would like to have more options when considering the construction of new facilities in the city.

The council adopted a resolution Tuesday at the city council meeting in support of allowing municipalities to place an optional sales tax or capital facilities tax on ballots during elections.

Council members Richard Gard, Jonathan Faubion, Lars Baker and mayor Ron Warpness voted for it, while council members Mary Ellen Christensen and Todd Smith voted against it.

Councilman Eric Heiser was not present.

The resolution will be submitted to the Wyoming Association of Municipalities and with their mutual support, is taken to the Wyoming Legislature for further consideration. A similar resolution was submitted last year.

"(We're) not saying that we're going to do this but it's more to give direction to WAM that we're in support of (it) and we want to have the option to do it," city administrator Steven Weaver said.

"Each municipality, if they so desire, should have the right to tax itself if they indeed want something in their community."

The council recalled the suggestion of a group of citizens, who attended a recent council meeting, that said the city should build a recreational facility at the location of City Park, instead of renovating it. During that meeting, the council reminded the group that to acquire funds for a center, an optional sales tax has to be approved by the county and the county has voted against it twice before.

"I think it's a process of education to try to help people understand that you don't just wish (for a) rec center," councilman Richard Gard said. "They're extremely costly."

Weaver explained the benefit of a municipality being able to tax itself by giving the example that if the city wanted to buy a fire truck, the funds for it could come from an optional sales tax but why would the county vote for a tax that would go towards a truck for Riverton only.

"I think this is a long way down the road, but if we don't start the ball moving, (when we) get to that point (of building a facility) we won't have that ability, (and) we're going to have to drag the rest of the county with us," Gard said.

Mayor Ron Warpness agreed, adding that because Riverton is a vital producer of money for the county, having that option would make the idea of building a recreational center more attainable.

"(It's) difficult to get it passed, but it's the right thing to do for a community like ours that doesn't have that flexibility," Warpness said.

Council member Todd Smith argued that telling the legislature that municipalities want to tax themselves may remit the wrong message.

"It seems to me that taxing, even ourselves ought to be a little more difficult than it is," he said. "I'd really hate to give WAM some more resolutions or more wordage to go down to Cheyenne and support more tax hikes."

"There's not a tax they don't like, (and) I think it really should be hard, taking hard earned dollars out of tax payers pockets."

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