Napier: Casper’s ‘Sixth Cent’ Tax Public Education Campaign Will Be Strictly Informative
CASPER, Wyo. – The Town of Casper has contracted LUM Studio for $ 19,400 for a public education campaign to inform the public of the upcoming “Sixth Dime” special purpose sales tax election in Natrona County.
City manager Carter Napier told city council on Tuesday that the city is legally limited to a “public education” effort and cannot lobby citizens to vote for or against the temporary tax on November 2.
“We have to be really, really careful about the distinction we make when we visit Rotary or when we communicate with the general public,” Napier said. “We can only educate and inform. We can’t lobby, if you want, or ask for a particular vote. [to] take place.”
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City of Casper Management Analyst Pete Meyers will serve as the city’s point of contact with LUM Studio as the public education initiative develops.
LUM account manager Julie Shmitt told the board the LUM team will meet with Meyers on Wednesday to further discuss plans for the initiative. She said LUM will be clear and concise in messages intended to educate the public about the “sixth cent” tax and what it is for.
She said public education efforts will be to let people know the special election is taking place and to educate them on what the sixth cent is and what special projects the temporary tax would support.
Shmitt said the public education campaign will include social media posts and videos from community members. The initiative will run from September until the special elections in November.
Council member Lisa Engebretsen asked for clarification on how the effort is paid for and whether Natrona County is helping with the costs.
Napier said the initiative is city-led and although the city hopes to receive support from the City of Midwest and the City of Edgerton, the city is currently the sole contributor to the costs.
He noted that the city had budgeted for the public education initiative under the new budget. The overall budget of approximately $ 147 million for the 2021-2022 fiscal year was unanimously approved by city council in June.
The $ 19,400 for contact with LUM represents approximately 0.00013% of the overall city budget for the year. Funding will come from a line item in the budget earmarked for “other contracts” and the “city manager’s office budget,” according to Napier.
“I’m all for the sixth cent,” Council member Bruce Knell said. “I think it’s desperately needed.”
While Knell said he supported the concept of the “sixth cent” tax, he said he believed the funding had been approved by Napier rather than city council.
“It was a decision we weren’t involved in, so I want that to be very clear,” he said.
As city council approved the overall budget for the fiscal year, Napier said he thought it was a fair characterization that council had not held a separate specific vote approving funding for the LUM contract.
Knell said he believed the board would have approved this use of the funding if a specific vote on the matter had taken place.
Freel said the council often delegates decisions involving lower purchase amounts to the city manager. Otherwise, the council would have to approve any minor purchases made by the city.
“There are a lot of things that don’t need to go to the board because of the dollar amount,” Freel said. “If people have any questions on this, I’ll be happy to answer them.
Council member Amber Pollock said she thought it appropriate for the city to support the public education campaign. She said citizens have the right to “clear and precise information” about the 6-cent tax, whether they vote for or against. For this reason, Pollock stated that she “almost [feels] obliged to do so.
Council member Steve Cathey asked when the temporary tax would go into effect if approved by voters. Napier said it would go into effect in January 2022 and would likely last one to two quarters of the year at most. It would end once funding for two specific projects has been raised. The “sixth cent” tax cannot become permanent under Wyoming law.
The special election will take place on November 2, 2021. If approved by voters, the temporary special-purpose tax would be used to generate approximately $ 4.4 million for two separate projects:
The town of Casper contracted LUM Studio for $ 19,400, commissioning the company to help educate the public about the proposed special-purpose tax and the projects it would support. LUM’s public education campaign is officially scheduled to begin on Wednesday, August 11, according to a note by Casper management analyst Pete Meyers included in the city council working file for Tuesday, August 10.
The town of Casper is trying to educate the public about the sales tax measure that will be on the ballot in November. The ballot measure will ask voters if they support the temporary one percent special-purpose sales tax (a “sixth cent” sales tax).
“The public will need to know that an election outside the year will take place; they will need to know what a special purpose tax is and how it works, and they will need to know that voters in Wyoming must now bring their ID to the polling station, ”the memo said.
The special election will be held on November 2 as required by state law after the Natrona County commission voted in June in favor of holding the special election. Prior to the committee’s vote, four of the governing bodies of the six Natrona County municipalities passed resolutions supporting the election. The councils of the town of Mills and the town of Bar Nunn voted against such resolutions.
The so-called “sixth cent” tax would be a special tax imposed throughout the county until funding of approximately $ 4.4 million for the final phase of Casper’s Midwest Avenue reconstruction project and the water main replacement project benefiting Midwest and Edgerton be lifted. Once that funding is lifted, the special purpose tax would disappear, and there is no way under current Wyoming law to make the “sixth dime” tax permanent.
The temporary special tax would be imposed on a quarterly basis until funding is lifted. Depending on the strength of sales in the county, the sixth cent tax could last only one quarter of the year and possibly two quarters at most, Casper Town Clerk Fleur Tremel said in May.
These projections are based on what are known as the optional “fifth cent” sales tax collections observed in Natrona County. Tremel said the county has recorded about $ 16 million to $ 18 million in optional “fifth cent” sales tax collections in recent years.
Why are these taxes called “fifth cent” and “sixth cent”? Wyoming imposes a statewide 4% sales and use tax. Counties can impose an additional 1% Sales and General Use Tax, hence the name “Fifth Cent”. Counties may also impose an additional 1% temporary tax for special purposes. If this tax is in addition to the statewide 4% tax and a 1% local general-purpose tax, the total percentage of tax imposed in the county would be 6%, hence the name of “sixth cent. “
The “fifth cent” and “sixth cent” taxes differ in several ways:
- “Fifth Hundred”:
- A 1% general-purpose sales and use tax that can be added to a wide variety of goals
- Voters are asked to re-approve every four years
- First implemented in Natrona County in 1974; voters have approved its renewal every four years since then
- “Sixth century”:
- A special 1% sales and use tax that can only be used for specific projects approved by voters
- The tax automatically expires once the necessary funding for the specific project is raised
- Has never been implemented in Natrona County
“Prior to the vote, the city will try to educate the public on these two projects, in partnership with Midwest and Edgerton,” Meyers’ note in the city council working file said. “He will try to explain what the plans are and why they are needed, and will try to provide information on the general election.”
Voters will need to bring ID to the polls in the November 2 special election. That’s because Gov. Mark Gordon enacted a law passed by the Wyoming legislature this spring requiring voters to show ID to vote.
The following identity documents will be accepted:
- A Wyoming driver’s license as defined by WS 31-7-102 (a) (xxv)
- A tribal ID card issued by the governing body of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe of Wyoming, the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming, or another federally recognized Indian tribe
- A Wyoming ID card issued under WS 31-8-101
- A valid US passport
- A military map of the United States
- A valid Medicare or Medicaid insurance card (would not be valid after December 31, 2029)
- Driver’s license or identification card issued by any state or peripheral possession of the United States
- Photo ID issued by the University of Wyoming, Wyoming Community College, or Wyoming Public School
NOTE: An Oil City article published on Monday included the following line: “The city will attempt, with the help of LUM Studios, to argue that the two specific projects that the ‘sixth cent’ tax would fund are worth supporting.” Napier clarified during the working session that the city and LUM will not technically argue that voters should support the tax. A similar note was added to Monday’s story.