Top Stories June 29, 2016

County Could Spend Extra Tax Money on Trees and Benches

by Jackson Hole. Media

 

Teton County has a pretty fancy problem. It turns out that they have two-million dollars in excess money from a special purpose tax that was voted on to build the South Park portion of the pathway system.

 

As the project was being built, engineers made a few changes that resulted in significant savings.

 

But now the County has to figure out what to do with the money and their hands are tied. Because the SPET tax was dedicated to this specific section of the pathway, officials must carefully direct where the money gets spent if it does.

 

The first choice is to create a long-term maintenance fund to keep that pathway section in top shape. County Engineer Sean O’Malley estimated that could be 500,000.00. But what to do with the rest?

 

Commissioner Smokey Rhea asked whether the money could be put to use for additional amenities to the path. “I know we were taking all the trees out and I heard some people want more benches p. Is that considered capital and can we use the money for that?” she asked.

 

Deputy County Attorney Keith Gingery told the commissioners that they had a few choices. “If there are things you did not spend money on that you wish you had, maybe an extra bench or two,” Gingery said, “Whatever else you could add.”

Gingery said the county could also dedicate the funds to the Budge Hill slide project that is on the ballot for an August vote.

 

“Where this gets awkward,” Gingery said, “is if the SPET truly dies, either in August, meaning it does not pass in two months, or the SPET passes in August but you don’t decide to do another one there is a whole other thing that must be done with the excess cash.”

 

Gingery said if town and county officials agreed to use the money towards a successful SPET vote, it could be a benefit to the favorable outcome of the ballot question.

 

County Treasurer Donna Baur said they had not faced a situation like this before. “This is new territory,” Baur said, “We haven’t been down this road before.” The tax has been in existence since 1985.

 

Commissioners will schedule the discussion at a later date perhaps at July’s joint town and county meeting.

Comments 3
  • Maybe it should be put to the voters to move the funds to the slide and reduce the ask to fix the slide

  • This is why their tax proposals MUST be voted down. They are completely tone-deaf to how this comes across to the taxpayers: “Hey, we have all this extra money. We need to waste it so we don’t look foolish.”

  • SPET has been a very useful tax since 1985 that allows the voters to vet big ticket items and hold government accountable. Now after 30 years this group of electeds is asking us in November to kill SPET and replace it with a General Excise Tax increase. The General Excise Tax has none of the guarantees and accountability that SPET has.

    This is either a cynical money grab by government that cuts the public out of the big capital expense decision making process, or it’s a deceptive tax increase, because they plan to bring SPET back after they get the General Excise Tax increased.

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