Park County voters were of two minds on taxes in Tuesday’s general election.

The 1-cent general purpose sales tax failed by a wide margin, while the 4% county lodging tax sailed through by an even wider margin.

General tax

Park County residents will not be taxed a fifth penny for the next four years as the 1% general purpose tax was rejected by voters with a 61%-39% vote.

In 2016, Park County voters supported a 1% specific purpose vote by a 50%-45% margin.

The last general purpose tax asked of voters was in 2012, which lost by a slightly better margin.

What a 1% general purpose tax does in contrast to a specific purpose is allow governments to use tax revenue towards the general fund.

Now, City of Cody and Park County elected officials will have some difficult decisions to make as far as their budgets.

“I’m a little disappointed about what happened,” Cody Mayor Matt Hall said. “But I’m pleased with what we did. I think it gave people some things to think about.”

The city was planning on using the 1% revenue for keeping and hiring school resource officers, police car upgrades, building maintenance and upgrades, improvements to the Cody Senior Center, road and sidewalk improvements, and extending Cougar Avenue to the east of Freedom Street, among other projects.

The Park County commissioners have said employee cuts and reduction of services would be very likely if the tax did not pass. They were planning on using the money for a variety of infrastructure projects and covering future budget shortfalls.

“I am very disappointed the citizens don’t trust us to spend their dollars wisely,” commission chairman Joe Tilden said.

Hall said he wasn’t sure if the economic downturn hurt the tax’s chances of passing or if choosing the tax as a general brought about its demise.

“That was one of the counterarguments we heard, a lot … it might have done stronger in year everyone isn’t struggling,” he said.

A political action committee, A Penny for Park County, was rebooted for the 2020 general election. The group focused much of its advertising on Facebook, with endorsements from county and city officials, State Sen. Hank Coe and local constituents featured on the page, along with slogans, “Give Change a Chance,” and “General Purpose Does Not Mean Unspecific.” A Penny for Park County hired a Lander firm to help with its marketing campaign.

This same PAC was used for marketing the specific purpose tax passed in 2016. PACs are considered private organizations and can expend funds and solicit donations as they see fit.

Hall said the city will be“fine” and will be able to rely on its existing infrastructure. The challenge, he said, will lie in new projects and programs.

“When it comes around to do the budget, we’ll have to look at cuts and try to do that in a thoughtful and considerate way,” he said.

Lodging tax

Despite a late surge of ads against the measure, proponents of the Park County 4% lodging tax were still able to shepherd through a renewal of the tax for the next four years with a wide margin.

When the votes were counted, 71.89% (11,560) supported the tax while 28.11% (4,521) opposed it.

In 2016 it passed 77-18%.

“It was a smaller margin than what we typically see, but it just goes to show that we did do a good job of explaining to the voters a very complicated issue,” said Cody Chamber Executive Director Tina Hoebelheinrich, who helped support the measure. “I am thrilled. I thought it was a very complicated issue. We had some opposition from folks, and I’m appreciative of Travel Council executive director Claudia Wade who did a lot of education.”

She said the plan of support, with help from the Cody Country PAC, was in place prior to a series of ads attacking the tax came out, but once that happened they did add a larger digital campaign.

In the last session in Cheyenne, legislators approved a statewide lodging tax that goes into effect Jan. 1 and provides 3% to the state office of tourism for statewide campaigns with 2% to be returned to county travel councils.

In 2020 though, voters were asked on the ballot to approve a 4% lodging tax to fund local marketing efforts.

Now that’s it’s approved, the state then will only take the 3% – meeting the mandated cap of a 7% lodging tax. If it hadn’t been approved, the state would’ve collected 5% and returned 2% to the county. That would’ve halved the funding for the Park County Travel Council, Wade said.

(11) comments

CodyWYOlderMan

It is sad when the electorate fails to realize that the mineral industry gravy train is over. But I am ok with cutting services, maybe it will discourage the influx of out of state folks who are driving our real estate prices (values for property taxes) in an out of control upward spiral!!

Gunrunner Auctions

I sure hope every elected official - city, county and state reps like Sandy Newsome (who is oh so fond of new taxes) got the message loud and clear from the voters: NO NEW TAXES of any kind will be tolerated. City, county and state must make cuts and then use their plentiful reserves to get through the loss of revenue due to the scare. Do NOT come to the people for new taxes as the economy rebounds.

And another clear mandate: Keep taxes low and business restrictions off of Wyoming companies so they can rebound easier.

And yet another mandate: Investigate these Cody "businesses" (or in some cases the appearance of a business) who got more money for a three month loss than their companies are worth!

We are watching and will vote down ANY new tax schemes.

Jack Dittmer

Again with Sandy Newsome! She won get over it! Biden won get over it! CSU won move on ! Being from Brunton maybe you have not figured out yet, that in Cody! No does not mean no. It just means not right now!

Wyoming resident

Most of us in Park County don’t stay or lodge in our towns Dewey V. If you had any brains you might be able to figure that out. 😂

DeweyV

Dear Wyoming Resident a/k/a Brainmeister --- ask your local lodging managers how much of their accomodation business comes from intra-state room renters. Accomodations sold to other Wyoming residents is very significant. Think weddings, conventions, special events, in-state tourism , and especially in-state commercial businesses ( like out of town contractors here for a week's work ) . I believe you would find it's a lot of taxable business, especially in the off season . So we very much do lodge in our own towns and thus we tax them. To think the lodging tax is mainly paid by out of staters is more than a loittle shortminded. I give your post 3 Duhs!

Bean Counter

Mr. Joe Tilden, it's not that we don't trust the Commissioners but, face it, you guys are amateurs when it comes to budgeting a multi million dollar entity. Hire a manager, which will free yourself, Lee, Lloyd, Dossie and soon to be Scott to handle the rest of the County

Freecitizen

Joe, it wasn't so much as to whether or not the money was spent wisely. You asked for a 25% increase in revenue at a time when many citizens' income is shrinking. "Tone-deaf" and "ill-timed" are two phrases which come to mind.

DeweyV

It baffles me why Republicans continually vote against their own self interests just to uphold some amorphous belief in rugged individualisms...

... or vote for state sanctioned cronyism

XMonkey

Self interests. That would be the "other" party's main concern.

todayistheday

It baffles me, why democrats want to raise taxes every time they get into power ! Biden who has been sucking at the trough for forty seven years, says, " I will not raise taxes on anyone making less than four hundred thousand dollars " !

Kamala Harris said " we are going to get rid of this tax burden ", going to take back the tax relief that was received by the middle income earners !

When you raise taxes on business, and employers, where do you think they make up that income loss ? Taxes increases are passed on to the consumer, that is just a fact !

Every one can look at their payroll taxes, and see their relief !

I am sixty, retired, I worked really hard for a lot of years, I new better how to use my money in my business, and my personal life, than any politician or bureaucrat I ever met !

We have way to many " educated people " who have never been in business, making rules, and laws, governing how we run our business's, and trying to tell us how to live our lives !

Therealmountainman

Now Park County will need to do what many families have done this year, tighten their budgets and quit wasting money. Both the county clerks office and the treasures office are overstaffed. Start spending the huge reserves or start cutting.

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