City, county officials behind 1-cent tax

2010-02-02T00:00:00Z City, county officials behind 1-cent taxPETE NICKEAS Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
February 02, 2010 12:00 am  • 

CASPER, Wyo. — Natrona County officials stood unified behind Casper City Manager Tom Forslund at a press conference Monday while he trumpeted the benefits of Natrona County’s 1-cent sales tax and outlined new ways of measuring public opinion.

Forslund, along with Natrona County Commission Chairman Rob Hendry and mayors from Mills, Evansville, Bar Nunn, Midwest and Edgerton, explained how the tax was necessary to fund services that already receive strong public support — public safety and roads.

The different local governments in the county haven’t cooperated on 1-cent matters in the past. Forslund enlisted support of the smaller towns late last year while acknowledging concern about whether voters would approve the tax.

Forslund and other officials gathered at the Casper Events Center to unveil a three-pronged process to measure how voters want to spend 1-cent tax revenue. County residents will be polled with written surveys in their utility bills, on a new Web site, Onecentprocess.com, and at public meetings.

Each town, except Midwest and Edgerton, has its own survey, and the first topic on each survey is roads — an area of spending where previous polling showed strong support.

Forslund’s most recent speech highlighted an ongoing shift in tone compared with earlier public appearances.

For much of November and December, as well as parts of January, city officials threatened water rate increases if voters don’t approve the optional 1-cent sales tax in November.

The tax, in effect for more than 30 years, has been used to pay for new water mains so construction costs aren’t entirely paid for with water bills.

Rather than telling voters what they won’t get if they reject the tax or how much they’ll have to pay elsewhere, Forslund and officials touted the new process aimed at getting community comment before deciding how to spend the money and derided the “old way of doing things.”

Forslund and other Casper officials have pledged to spend the money as voters dictate, using the results from surveys to gauge public interest in different spending areas.

The results from written surveys, electronic polling and information from Web site polls will be compiled and posted to the 1-cent Web site, Forslund said.

The fate of the tax will be decided by voters in Natrona County at November’s election.

Contact Pete Nickeas at pete.nickeas@trib.com or 307-266-0639.

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