Local voters will see a pair of questions about the Optional 1% Sales Tax, better known as the 5th Penny Tax, on the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

Along with approving or denying the tax for another four years, voters will have the options to make the tax permanent instead of going to a vote every four years.

The 5th Penny Tax is a 1% assessment for retail sales made within Albany County and has been approved by voters for decades.

The city of Laramie, town of Rock River and Albany County have relied on the 5th Penny Tax to bolster city services since it was first approved in 1986. County voters have voted in favor of the tax every time it’s been up for renewal since then.

Between fiscal years 2017 and 2021, the city of Laramie brought in more than $26 million from the tax, said Administrative Services Director Jennifer Wade.

The money goes toward services such as street repairs, policing and emergency services, park maintenance, access for disabled people and animal control.

The city of Laramie also invests some of its 5th Penny money back into the community through partnerships with local economic development groups and nonprofits.

“It’s very vital to us, so I hope people continue to support us,” City Council member Bryan Shuster said during a meeting Tuesday.

The city’s reliance on the tax began to increase in 2014, when the Wyoming Legislature voted to reduce its direct distributions to the city. Since then, the Legislature has voted to reduce its distribution to the city by about $1.6 million a year, according to city documents.

If the tax is not approved in the upcoming general election, the city reports it will have to reduce its budget for fiscal year 2022-23 by about $5 million.

“This is an essential penny. It’s not a new tax,” said Mayor Paul Weaver. “It’s the basic government services.”

Making the tax permanent also is something voters will be asked, and it would only take effect if the tax is renewed.

Prior to approving the ballot language for the two items, Laramie City Council met with the Rock River Town Council to discuss concerns over readability and the potential of voters being confused by two questions regarding the same tax on the ballot.

One ballot item will ask voters whether or not they would like to continue the 5th Penny Tax for the next four years. Another will ask if they want to make the tax permanent.

Voters should cast a vote on both ballot items as separate questions to be sure their stance is accurately accounted for.

Early absentee voting begins July 1.

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