Casper City Council Mulls Major Optional One-Cent Sales Tax Priorities
The residents of Casper want most of the estimated $58 million in revenue from the next Optional One-Cent Sales Tax, if Natrona County voters approve it in November, to go for the city's major services of street maintenance, police, fire and emergency services, and water, according to a recent survey.
At a work session Tuesday, City Council also considered the medium priorities of parks, playgrounds, trails and outdoor sports, community projects, swimming and recreation, and the restoration of the North Platte River; and the low priority items of museums and the arts, and public transportation.
"We took the major stuff coming in, the majority of that $58 million -- streets, fire infrastructure -- of the priority of the top to the bottom," Mayor Ray Pacheco said.
The survey was conducted over the summer with about 600 respondents, City Manager Carter Napier said.
Council members Jesse Morgan and Dallas Laird questioned the validity of the survey, but Bob Hopkins responded that a 600-respondent survey in a city the size of Casper has a 95 percent confidence level.
The following are the priorities, total allocations and the categories over the four-year cycle of the Optional One-Cent Sales Tax No. 16. These amounts are subject to final council approval.
Fire, $3 million: Vehicle replacement -- $1 million; miscellaneous equipment -- $2 million.
Streets, $18 million: Projects -- $15.4 million; fleet replacement -- $2.6 million.
Police, $7 million: Police station design -- $3,632,000; vehicle and equipment replacement -- $3,368,000.
Water and sewer, $12.5 million: Water main replacement -- $10 million; sewer -- $2 million; storm water improvements -- $500,000.
Parks, playgrounds, trails and outdoor sports, $4.5 million: Park equipment -- $900,000; parks and recreation fleet -- $500,000; irrigation -- $1.1 million; trails (Platte River Rails Trust) -- $1.5 million; golf -- $500,000. There would be no allocation for the Hogadon Ski Area.
Community projects, $6 million: These projects will be selected later from the applications by governmental and social service agencies.
Swimming and recreation, $3.6 million: Subsidized swimming -- $1.3 million; pool liners and reconditioning -- $180,000; recreation center heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) -- $230,000; ice arena -- $190,000; Casper Events Center HVAC and renovations -- $1.7 million.
River restoration, $1.5 million: Miscellaneous river project phases.
Museums and arts, $500,000: Fort Caspar renovations -- $100,000; Nicolaysen Art Museum -- $400,000.
Public Transportation, $1.4 million: Subsidized bus rates -- $1.4 million.
The City Council did not discuss the details of the requests from the governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations that submitted $13.8 million in requests for the $6 million available under the "community projects" category.
However, the $13.8 million figure already has been whittled by $1.1 million because the Cadoma Foundation (owner of the Bishop House on East Second Street), Casper Mountain Biathlon and the Casper Community Greenhouse are legally ineligible to receive funding, according to the project summary. The city's legal department also has questioned the YMCA of Natrona County's request for $1.5 million for a new swimming pool because that would compete with the Casper Family Aquatic Center.
So the $13.8 million figure is down to $12.7 million, if not to $11.2 million.
That total will even be less because some of the community projects requests will be folded into the priorities listed by survey respondents.
The Casper Area Transportation Coalition asked for $1.7 million over the next four years because the City Council decided earlier this year to shift support from the city's general fund to as a local match for funding CATC. The funding would supplement employees salaries and benefits, offer a wage increase, pay for increased costs at the garage; and offer $50,000 for subsidized fares.
The last of the priorities on the above list would allocate $1.4 million for CATC. It is unclear how the remaining $300,000 CATC request would be fulfilled.
The Nicolaysen Art Museum requested $413,131 for renovations. The city owns the Nic building, so the allocation for $400,000 in renovations would be folded into the museums and arts category. It is unclear how the remaining $13,131 Nic request would be fulfilled.
The Platte River Rails Trust requested $1 million -- $200,000 to partially cover overhead costs and $800,000 to leverage other funding for projects. This request would be folded into the "parks, playgrounds, trails and outdoor sports" category because it is part of the city's infrastructure. It is unclear why the allocation is $500,000 greater than the request by the Platte River Rails Trust.
These three allocations totaling $2.8 million would be removed from the $12.7 million (or $11.2 million if the YMCA's request is not funded) would reduce the total requests for community projects from the governmental agencies and nonprofits to either $9.9 million or $8.4 million.
Pacheco said this will give the City Council some flexibility as it considers the remaining requests. "It does give us a little bit more wiggle room as those more toward the priority list."