Make Sense of SPET
JACKSON HOLE, WY – After two months of seemingly interminable town and county deliberation, it is now up to the public to decide which SPET initiatives are worthy of their cents. To learn more, the Town of Jackson and Teton County invite voters to a series of two open houses beginning tomorrow morning.
“Town councilmen and county commissioners spent a lot of time vetting projects,” acknowledged Cindy Harger, Teton County public information specialist. “Tomorrow is a really great opportunity [for voters] to learn about the projects for themselves.”
Starting at 11:30 a.m., representatives from each project will staff booths scattered throughout the Center for the Arts theater lobby. Many will have display boards with project designs, and all will be ready to answer voter questions.
The Specific Purpose Excise Tax is a single penny (1 percent) tax on “retail sales of tangible personal property, admissions and services made within the county,” according to ballot language. The tax generates between $10 to $12 million in revenue per year to help with public capital construction and infrastructure projects. County treasurer Donna Bauer estimates that tourists pay between 60 to 70 percent of the tax every year.
This year’s SPET ballot includes three separate housing projects: $2.9 million for Town of Jackson/Teton County employee housing at the Parks and Recreation maintenance facility; $8.3 million for town and county employee housing at the START bus facility; and $4.05 million for affordable housing “preferably at Redmond and Hall streets in the Town of Jackson,” the ballot reads. The $4.05 million could also be used for other affordable housing projects.
Other initiatives include $17 million for a new senior living center at St. John’s Medical Center; renovations and upgrades to Fire Station No. 1 in Jackson and the construction of a new Fire Station No. 3 in Hoback; additions and replacements to the START bus fleet; and a Central Wyoming College Jackson campus.
At the final town and county meeting dedicated to SPET, Councilman Don Frank said he was ready to support all 10 items on the ballot. He asked that in May, voters vote for projects that will not only benefit them as individuals, but that will benefit the community as a whole. Borrowing from an ancient Greek proverb, Frank mused, “sometimes you plant a tree for shade under which you will never sit.”
Tomorrow’s open house should help voters decide just how many trees they want to plant.
Absentee voting for SPET begins March 23 and ends May 1, and the official election day is May 2. An evening open house is scheduled for Wednesday, April 19 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the library’s Ordway Auditorium.