SHERIDAN — Sheridan’s mayoral candidates expressed contrasting views regarding the possibility for a “seventh penny” tax on Sheridan residents.
Currently, the state imposes a 4% sales tax and Sheridan County has two voter-approved 1% sales taxes in place, the Capital Facilities Tax and the Optional One-Cent Sales Tax, which city staff has recently begun calling the General Purpose Excise Tax. That tax supports some area nonprofits, economic development initiatives and other projects.
Mayor Roger Miller said he would leave it up to the residents of Sheridan. If they support it, he said, he would like to see it utilized as a general purpose tax to continue infrastructure maintenance like water, sewer and street projects.
Councilor Rich Bridger, though, said he wouldn’t support it.
“I believe the first thing to do, rather than automatically look at an additional tax, would be to look for efficiencies in the current operations and be as resourceful as possible with the funds available,” he said. “Also, continue to leverage our dollars to seek out such opportunities as matching grants to stretch the funds.”
The possibility of an additional 1% sales tax passed in the Wyoming Legislature in 2020. The legislation allows cities, towns and counties to levy the tax if approved by voters as a way to generate more revenue for local government entities.
While some legislators cringed at the potential of adding additional taxes to Wyoming residents, others viewed the legislation as a critical tool that would allow cities and towns who may face declines in direct distribution funding from the state.
Miller noted that direct distribution funding from the state cannot be used for day-to-day operating expenses, but is instead intended for one-time expenses.
He would like to see funding from a “seventh penny” sales tax be used for more general operations.
For example, he said, if the city loses direct distribution funds, it will have to utilize other city dollars to cover the costs money from the state normally did. So purchases like new patrol cars or street maintenance equipment once paid for from direct distributions would now compete with funding for salaries and other needs.
Of the six candidates seeking seats on the Sheridan City Council, just two responded to whether they'd support the additional 1% tax.
Tom Kelly said he would not support a tax increase at a time when the city is not short on money.
"If the budget does become tight, then the first move is to streamline city government and prioritize needs before asking the people of Sheridan to pay almost 17% more in sales tax," Kelly said. "That's what that 'seventh penny' actually is, a 16.7% increase from a rate of 6 to 7 percentage points. I'd give up my salary as a council member and work for free before asking retirees on fixed incomes or single parents to pay more for their everyday needs."
Kelly said if such a tax did go into effect, it should go toward funding essential city services such as police, fire and infrastructure.
Kristen Jennings also said she would not support a seventh penny tax.
"The old adage 'just because we can doesn't mean we should,' rings true in this situation," Jennings said. "We need to be looking for ways to help the citizens keep more in their pockets, especially in these harder times. If this were to pass I strongly urge that the tax be used to support local businesses."
The city of Sheridan, nor any of the other municipalities within Sheridan County or Sheridan County itself, have proposed the addition of the new tax to local voters.