Every four years since 1974, Natrona County residents have agreed on one thing at the ballot box. While they may differ on who should represent their ward on the city council, or who should be on the county commission, they’ve always found common ground on one issue.
The optional 1-cent tax has been an essential piece of city funding for over four decades now. And as it faces another turn on the ballot this November, it’s important to remember just how essential it is.
City Manager Carter Napier has estimated that the 1-cent revenue will generate approximately $12 million to $13 million for the city every year if it’s renewed. Since this optional tax has been generating revenue for the city for the last 44 years, it’s become pretty much integral to the city’s budget.
Over the last 44 years, that revenue has made a lot of things possible in Casper.
If you frequent the local library, you’re taking advantage of 1-cent revenue. If you and your family visit local museums, or hike the expanding trails systems, you can thank the 1-cent funding.
The new David Street Station in Casper helped kick start cultural and entrepreneurial growth that has since spread from the city center. The revitalization of the Old Yellowstone District has aided in this business boom as well. It’s with the help of 1-cent funding that these projects, and their subsequent bounties, were made possible for the city.
There are even more crucial services that the 1-cent helps to support, beyond just the quality of life services that attract and retain residents.
The Casper Police Department and the Fire Department rely on the revenue from the optional sales tax. When local revenue would otherwise stretch too thin, the 1-cent helps the city afford new fire trucks and fire stations. Because of the tax, the fire department may not need to choose between hiring a new firefighter and replacing an old, unreliable fire engine. In the past, the 1-cent tax even paid for City Hall.
Almost as old as the 1-cent tax is the Casper Police Department headquarters on David Street, which is too small to meet the department’s current demand. The department has requested a portion of next year’s 1-cent funds to go toward securing a new building that can better meet the needs of the growing department.
Additionally, the CPD will be hiring 10 school resource officers as part of a larger local effort to increase school safety in the wake of nationwide shootings. Those 10 new officers will need gear and police cars; the 1-cent tax can make that possible.
These services are so essential, it can be easy to take them for granted. It can also be easy to dismiss the value of an optional tax. Some residents have argued that the city should manage the budget in such a way that residents don’t need to pay an additional tax to pay for those essential services.
But without the 1-cent, the city’s budgeting practices couldn’t stretch existing revenue far enough to cover these extra needs. And remember, there’s nothing new about this tax. We’ve been paying it for over four decades now.
Casper boasts a lot of amenities we wouldn’t get elsewhere. Let’s keep growing our town. Because it’s not just somewhere we live; it’s somewhere we choose to call home.