CARBON COUNTY — After a special election took place in May to increase the county’s sales tax back to its original 6%, County Treasurer Patty Bentsen is reminding residents that it will go into effect Tuesday.
The specific purpose option tax was voted on in the May 7 election, with 1,236 Carbon County residents voting for the increase and 398 voting against it. The combined total of these people made up less than 30% of the county’s registered voters.
The tax was increased to raise $67 million for various projects in the county, such as converting the courthouse into a justice center and converting the Carbon Building into a centralized location for all administrative needs, such as the county clerk or the treasurer.
“There’s no date in mind just yet for when these projects will begin, but I believe we are in the finalization process,” County Treasurer Patty Bentsen said Thursday afternoon.
There’s no firm date on when the $67 million will be completely funded due to taxes being such a variable, the estimates reported in the Rawlins Times when the initiative passed expected it to end in the mid-2030s, around 15 years from now.
Many of the county’s municipalities decided to fund some of their improvement projects with bonds, using the 6th penny tax to repay the bonding company and any generated interest in the coming years.
But some cities, such as Rawlins, will use the money as the tax revenue comes in. Rawlins chose to do this because many of their projects would require construction and renovation in high-traffic areas and do so many at one time would quickly frustrate citizens.
While those in western states like Wyoming have a stereotype for avoiding new or increased taxes, many Carbon County officials noted to the newspaper following the election that they were surprised at the landslide vote.
Bentsen doesn’t believe, however, most people will notice much, if any, of a change once the extra 1% is added to their bills at various businesses around town.
But if you’re looking to get a big ticket item soon, this weekend might be the perfect time to do so.
“That’s really where people will notice a difference in the price,” Bentsen said. “It’s going to make a difference on purchases like vehicles when they’re bought in Carbon County after Oct. 1.”
Mary Penland, owner of Rawlins furniture store Rasmussen Furniture, believes the change will cause a bit of a headache for other local business owners in the county, but she also knows how far that 1% will go.
“We need to keep that money in Carbon County so we can maintain our infrastructure,” she said. “These are some really great projects that the taxes are going to. It was just an adjustment when we went down to 5% around a year ago and now we’re going back.”
While Penland doesn’t believe her business will really be affected by the tax increase, she did note she’s seen an uptick in buyers over the last couple weeks.
“I think people are realizing this increase is coming up quickly, so they’re trying to beat it by coming in now and buying things,” she said.
Ellen Fike is a freelance writer living in Cheyenne. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @EllenLFike.