The University Of Wyoming Board Of Trustees met early Thursday in an executive session to consider the purchase of further real estate, according to a news release. The university — in a growth mode — may possibly acquire even more privately-owned residential property; however, the specific locations have not yet been identified.
Because Chairman Jeffery Marsh is unable to provide public comment presently, the Albany County community can only speculate where, when and how another university purchase will affect the local economy.
Grant Showacre, county assessor, provided perspective to the potential real estate acquisition by exemplifying UW’s most recent purchase of the Mountain View Medical Park building located on Harney Street and its anticipated impact on Albany County.
The purchase included the 31,255-square-foot, two-story building and over 5 acres of land. According to a 2020 news release announcing the purchase, the medical and dentistry offices will remain in the building until 2023. But once their leases expire, Albany County will see a drastic loss in annual tax revenue.
“If they use (the building) for school purposes, it goes to exempt,” Showacre said.
In other words, the property is covered by state statute that exempts entities such as the university from taxation.
The acquisition of the medical park, which was purchased for just over $8 million will cost Albany county nearly $55,000 in tax revenue annually, Showacre said.
“It reduces the ability for all the taxing entities in the county to generate revenue,” he said.
City Manager Janine Jordan provided commentary on the specific impacts on the city of Laramie, stating any loss of revenue, in terms of property tax, is a blow to city and county governments.
“County government, of course, receives most of the property tax, but the city receives a portion,” Jordan said.
She added that the community can benefit from the change in ownership and subsequent loss in revenue if UW continues to utilize the facility for medical purposes.
“We hate to see the property tax go away, but if they were providing those services that’s going to be a benefit to the community too.
Since the purchase, the university has implemented a very successful COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the medical park, which has significantly helped speed up Albany County’s vaccine campaign efforts.
The university plans to expand existing health sciences programs at the Mountain View Medical Park facility, as stated in a 2020 release. At the time UW was already leasing space in the building for the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) Medical Education Program for instructional activities.
“While we certainly acknowledge the loss of that relatively small amount of property tax revenue, in the whole scheme of property taxes in Albany County, the benefits the community accrues from the university being here and from the potential expansion of university programs … would more than offset the loss of that revenue,” UW Associate Vice President of Communications Chad Baldwin said.
THE MASTER PLAN
University of Wyoming expansion has been underway for a number of years, said Baldwin, and the new buildings and ongoing construction on the north side of campus — previously residential areas — attests to that.
“University campuses that are flourishing tend to grow,” Baldwin said, but UW’s expansion has never been the result of eminent domain. “These are willing sellers,” he added.
Currently, there are approximately 67 potential new projects listed on the University of Wyoming’s campus Master Plan, of which several require the purchase of residential areas.