SPET ballot questions may be decided today
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
August 17, 2012
County voters could learn today whether three big projects totalling $35 million will be on the November ballot for approval to receive the 1 percent specific purpose excise tax.
Jackson and Teton County officials are scheduled to vote on the ballot language at a meeting starting at 3 p.m. in Town Hall, 150 E Pearl Ave. Elected officials will be reviewing three projects: a new pathway between Jackson and the Stilson Ranch, cleanup efforts at the landfill south of town and a land purchase from the U.S. Forest Service.
Elected officials haven’t decided if they’ll put all three projects on the ballot. They also haven’t settled on how they’ll finance the projects or exactly how much they’ll cost.
Elected officials are scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. today at Town Hall at 150 E. Pearl Ave.
The Town Council and the county commissioners last talked about the tax and the projects Aug. 6. They raised questions then about how much it would cost to issue bonds for the projects. Bonding would allow the projects to move ahead more quickly than waiting for the tax to come in.
If approved by the town and county, the projects would be placed on the November ballot for voters to decide.
If voters support the projects, the tax cash wouldn’t go to them until the current slate of projects, approved in 2010, is fully funded. That’s expected to happen in fall 2014.
Issuing bonds for the land purchase and the landfill — the pathway project likely won’t require bonding — could cost several million dollars, depending on how much money is needed upfront.
The 1-cent tax, called the SPET, raises between $9 million and $10 million annually. That means that $35 million in projects would take slightly longer than three years to pay off if revenue remains constant.
The landfill closure is being forced by a state mandate to clean up the old trash dump in Horsethief Canyon. The work is expected to cost about $15 million, with the cost rising if bonds are sold.
The money would pay to clean up and close the landfill. If any money is left, it would go toward planning the next phase of the project, which includes expanding existing services at the site.
County staffers have said the project could cost $3 million less if the Forest Service agrees to let the county use its adjacent property to store trash it excavates. The permitting process that will determine whether that is allowed can take several months, if not longer.
The second big plan is the proposed purchase of Forest Service land in Jackson. Officials hope buying the land would convince the Forest Service not to move its headquarters out of Jackson. The 10 acres on North Cache Street are appraised at $11.55 million. Some money would be used to extend Mercill Avenue east to King Street and to pay for financing.
The dump project and the land purchase have consistently received support from most elected officials. The pathway project, however, has less support.
The project has been in its design phase for more than a year. During that time, elected officials and staffers realized the project would cost more than the initial tax dollars voters approved for the project.
Town and county staffers have won several grants for the project, but estimate they need at least $4 million more to complete the work.
Engineers and project planners have been trimming the project to cut the cost. They’re expected to present those options today.