What’s a Tax Swap

By on August 14, 2009
What’s a tax swap?

The number one issue I hear about from constituents is property tax.  On this blog we have discussed many different ideas and possible solutions to the property tax problem in Teton County.  My pessimism toward a legislative solution increases every day, especially since Governor Dave Freudenthal came out with his solution that specifically exempted Teton County out of the formula.  When asked at a press conference about the Teton County exclusion, he replied that property tax relief is not for people of means.  The way his formula works, the Governor seems to believe that everyone in Teton County are people of means.  Luckily, the Joint Revenue Committee of the Legislature did not agree with the Governor’s belief that property tax relief is for everyone except Teton County, and have proposed a bill that includes Teton County. 

But in case we go another year without a legislative solution, there are some things that the County Commissioners can still do to provide relief.  That possible solution is a tax swap.  Of the 57 mills that are presently assessed in Teton County, the county commissioners control 12 of those mills.  The  commissioners have already reduced their 12 mills down to 8 mills.  (The majority of the property tax mills are controlled by the school board)

The town of Jackson has the potential of 8 mills and they do none of the 8 mills.  Jackson is one of only 3 towns that do no mills.  Lost Springs (pop. 15) and Van Tassel (pop. 3) are the other two.

The commissioners could potentially bring the mills down even further if we swapped from getting some revenue from property tax and switch to more sales tax.  Two years ago, State Representative Steve Harshman of Casper was able to get passed a bill that increased the general revenue sales tax from 1% to 2%.  So a local government could have the voters of their community vote on whether to increase the general revenue sales tax from 1 to 2 pennies.  A 1 penny increase brings in about $11 million in Teton County.  Thus if we increased the sales tax by 1% we could then decrease the property tax mill levies.  Some of the arguments in favor of this idea is that the sales tax is paid by visitors to our valley rather than property tax that only hits the residents. 

The County Commissioners voted earlier this year to move forward with putting the increase of 1% of general revenue sales tax on the ballot and decrease the property tax mills.  However, the Jackson Town Council voted to block the move.  So it did not appear on the ballot. 

Posted: Sunday, December 21, 2008 7:01 PM

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