When you navigate to www.factsbeforetax.com you’re greeted with a folksy message. “Whoa There, Pard! Let’s take a look at the facts before we decide to raise our tax,” the site reads. It then, in very digestible bits, sets out a list of issues that the website owners want you to know before this autumn’s vote on the 1-penny increase on Jackson’s sales tax.
That tax, though legally unrestricted, would be spent on housing and transportation. But factsbeforetax.com points out several instances of previous housing plans that, they say, have gone unfulfilled.
In one tidbit, they note that nearly 15 years ago the Housing Authority bought a parcel of land to build on, but never did. The money used to purchase that property was part of the 2001 Special purpose Excise Tax, or SPET, vote which award the Authority close to 10 million dollars.
In 2006, another SPET ballot put 5 million dollars in the Housing Authority’s hands and the website points out that again, promises were made but not kept as two more parcels and a commercial building were purchased but never developed.
The operators of the site wish to remain anonymous, but did respond when asked what they hoped to achieve.
“Our goal, simply, is to make Teton County and Jackson residents aware of what effort and money has been expended in the past on Housing and Transportation. We feel that a high information voter will make a well-informed decision and will see clearly that throwing more money at our problems is not responsible nor is it effective. We want our information to be fact-based and not emotion driven. We want people to take a measured look at the facts and not let any prejudice blur their vision by looking for ulterior motives from those who are putting forth the information. Great care has been taken to make sure that what is written is factual and can be backed up with original source information – often in the words and from the data of the advocates of higher taxes and more government intervention. We want it to be their words, not ours, that point to logical conclusions that expose the error of their ways.”
For its part, the Housing Authority notes on its website www.tetonwyo.org/house/ that the two parcels are, “placeholders for future affordable housing. The building located at 260 W. Broadway is slated for redevelopment of affordable rental units. It currently has office space including TCHA’s offices but will be redeveloped when The Grove is completed.”
Elected officials are in the middle of a conversation about creating a new housing department that is proposed to be run by Teton County. But Town of Jackson councilmembers have expressed concern over the County’s ability to manage it.
Teton County Commission Chairwoman Barb Allen says the issue underscores the value of the new department. “I think the most important thing we can do for housing success is create a new structure that is specific, strategic and accountable. If we are going to ask the public for more money to fund housing then public needs to know where its money it going to be spent, how and what impact that will have,” Allen said.