Casper firefighters using the ladder to examine the HVAC equipment in downtown Casper in August 2017. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — If voters decide to renew the “one-cent” tax this November, the City of Casper estimates its share of the county-wide optional sales tax revenues will total about $64.5 million over four years.

Before voters go to the polls this fall, the Casper City Council will be asked to pass a resolution establishing priorities for the city’s use of one-cent revenues during the next four-year cycle. City staff are recommending that $42.505 million, or 66% of the total anticipated one-cent revenues, go to the top four priorities identified by residents in a survey conducted this spring.

Under staff’s recommendation as explained in a memo, use of funding for those top four priority areas would break down as follows:

  • Street repairs: $21.8 million
  • Water and sewer: $10.4 million
  • Fire-EMS: $4.805 million
  • Police: $5.5 million

Staff’s recommendation would be to divide the other $21.995 million in anticipated one-cent revenues between other priority areas identified by residents in the survey, though not necessarily in order of the priority the survey indicated. For instance, $6.095 million would be allocated toward public building repairs.

While that would be the third highest allocation by category, the survey found public building repairs were the ninth most important service that could be funded by one-cent sales tax revenues. However, a recent facilities assessment conducted by Alpha Facilities Solutions looking at 127 city-owned buildings found City of Casper–owned buildings need over $33 million in repairs.

Priorities for use of one-cent funding found in a survey of Natrona County residents this spring. (City of Casper)

The $42.5 million that would be allocated toward the top four priorities under the staff recommendation are similar to what was allocated toward fire, streets, police and water under the current four-year one-cent cycle. $42.223 million were allocated to those four priority areas, accounting for 73% of estimated revenues for the 2018–2022 cycle.

In order to come up with its recommendations, staff first estimated that one-cent revenues would total around $64.5 million for the upcoming four-year cycle. Staff then compiled a list of needs that could potentially be funded, which totaled $128,817,809.

“In order to reduce the requests by more than half, Staff … weighted the priorities according to the survey results from citizens and Council,” the staff memo said. “These results were then rounded. Staff then used these numbers and manually adjusted them so as to line up with the dollar amounts requested for the varied needs.”

The Casper City Council will be asked to review the staff recommendation during its Tuesday, June 28 work session. The City Council is able to modify the recommendations before formally voting on a resolution to adopt the priorities during a regular meeting.

In Casper, one-cent revenues have helped fund everything from the construction of fire stations to the purchase of police equipment to the construction of swimming pools. Voters’ support for one-cent has also provided the city with a key source of funding for its care of basic infrastructure like streets, sewers and waterlines.

Over the past four years, one-cent money specifically helped fund things like the K Street rehabilitation project that, in addition to street repair, included the construction of new sidewalks to neighborhoods in North Casper, Lincoln Elementary School and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Wyoming’s main club branch. One-cent also helped ensure the replacement of about 6.5 miles of water lines and about a mile of sewer line, according to city staff.

Even with one-cent supporting streets projects, a 2021 study conducted for the city found it should be spending about $3.5 million more per year than it has been on street repairs. Without one-cent money, fewer street repair projects would happen, staff said earlier this month.

The optional tax is colloquially referred to as either “one-cent,” because it is a 1% tax on sales that occur within the county, or the “fifth-penny” or “fifth-cent” tax, because it is an optional local tax on top of the statewide 4% sales and use tax. In 2018, about 75% of Natrona County voters voted in favor of renewing the tax. About 70% approved of its renewal in 2014.

Staff’s recommendations, the draft resolution for the City Council’s consideration and the survey can be reviewed in the documents below: