When absentee and early voting began last month for renewal of Laramie County’s sixth-penny sales tax, we said all 14 propositions deserve to be supported by voters.

Six weeks later, as we close in on Tuesday’s specific-purpose tax election, we stand by that recommendation. But we would add that it’s important, if not critical, to the future of every part of the county that we see high voter turnout this week. Because if you don’t do your part by supporting these efforts to fund important public safety, infrastructure, road and community enhancement projects, the quality of life we all enjoy will be negatively impacted.

We also want to use this space today to answer some questions and clear up some misconceptions as they relate to the sixth penny, which was first implemented in Laramie County more than 40 years ago.

First of all, the sixth penny is a countywide tax, charged by all businesses in the county to all county residents. The main exception is, like all sales tax in Wyoming, it isn’t charged on food that’s not ready to eat. But the good thing is it’s also paid by out-of-state residents when they visit Wyoming. For that reason alone, it’s worth supporting.

Recently, a few rural residents have questioned why they should fund Cheyenne city roads, utilities and facilities. For two reasons, at least: First, rural residents drive on city streets when they go to town to do business. Secondly, city residents are asked to vote on similar items for small towns and rural parts of Laramie County.

You see, a sales tax like the sixth penny only works when it’s supported by all residents and visitors. If only the town of Pine Bluffs could fund the $1.5 million requested to relocate a railroad crossing, it would take much longer to collect enough money to fund the project. And some things would never get done, since the state has dramatically reduced its contribution to local governments and may completely eliminate it in the years to come.

And it’s not like voters have no idea how this money is being spent. As we’ve said here previously, we think this is most well-organized, transparent sixth-penny ballot we’ve seen in a long time. It groups public safety projects together and infrastructure projects together, and keeps them separated from community enhancements.

Previously, those preparing the ballot mixed “apples and oranges” in a form of ballot manipulation intended to “force” rural residents to support city amenities. Unfortunately, that backfired, and some important rural projects were defeated.

Still, a few of this year’s ballot items require a bit more explanation, as evidenced by some recent phone conversations we’ve had with local residents and comments we’ve seen posted on social media. Here are just a few:

Proposition 6 includes $823,361 for the airport parking lot. Didn’t they just build the new terminal and lot? Why is this needed?

Yes, the new terminal was built using sixth-penny sales tax money, and a small paved lot was included with that project. But the good news is demand for flights originating in smaller communities away from Denver exceeded expectations, which means airport officials say they need to pave and light a gravel overflow lot adjacent to the existing lot as soon as possible. This will add 160 paved spots, which will provide enough parking for two large aircraft to support multiple destinations in the future.

I thought the fifth penny covered road projects, so why do we need to fund roads through Propositions 4 and 5?

The city of Cheyenne gets roughly $4.5 million a year for pavement maintenance and $1 million a year for large projects from the fifth penny. But with more than 365 miles of streets (and increasing), that’s not nearly enough to fund the work needed simply to keep things from getting worse than they already are. For summer 2022, the city has already budgeted $4.675 million for 38 miles of road maintenance projects, and that only scratches the surface of what’s needed.

At the end of Proposition 8, it calls for a little more than half a million dollars for a new bookmobile for the Laramie County Library. Is this to replace the existing one or for a second one?

We reached out to County Librarian Carey Hartmann, who explained that it is to replace the current one. She added, “The life span for a bookmobile is generally 17 to 20 years. The current bookmobile is 15 years old. It takes 18 to 24 months from the time we start the process with the manufacturer until it is built and delivered (could be longer with current supply chain issues).” (For more details, visit https://tinyurl.com/lclssixthpennyflier.)

Why should I help the city spend $2 million to build a new gymnasium and gymnastics facility next to the Ice and Events Center through Proposition 11? Don’t kids already have a place to compete in gymnastics on Powderhouse Road?

No, that facility has closed, and besides, it was a privately run program that was more expensive than the city recreation program. The city’s program has been operating out of the Neighborhood Facility in south Cheyenne, but that building (which is very old and in need of major maintenance) and the land it sits on have been sold to Laramie County School District 1 so a replacement Cole Elementary School can be built.

But this new facility won’t be just for gymnastics. It will contain several multi-use courts for both youth and adult recreation programs. And since school district gymnasiums are already well-utilized by other programs, this space is essential for a community that experiences cold wind, snow and other wintry conditions from October through May.

Proposition 14 calls for $2.25 million for the airport for something called a minimum revenue guarantee. Doesn’t the airport get enough money from the federal government already?

This would cover the city’s portion of a pot of money used to attract an airline to provide commercial air service to the Capital City. Combined with money already committed by Laramie County, the state and private donors, the MRG is only used when enplanements don’t keep up with the cost of providing service, such as that set to resume Monday from Cheyenne to Denver International Airport on SkyWest Airlines, a United Express carrier.

Again, these are just a few of the questions that have popped to the surface in the past few weeks. We hope these answers help explain the need for these items. (For more information, visit https://tinyurl.com/sixthpennybrochure, https://tinyurl.com/cheyennesixthpenny, https://elections.laramiecountyclerk.com/ and https://bit.ly/CLWV-videos.)

If you haven’t voted already, we hope you’ll get to a polling place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday. Vote centers are located at: David R. Romero Park, 1317 Parsley Blvd.; Storey Gym, 2811 House Ave.; Cheyenne Frontier Days Event Center, 1230 W. Eighth Ave.; North Christian Church, 2015 Tranquility Road; Laramie County Community College, CCI Building, 1400 E. College Drive; Event Center at Archer, 3801 Archer Parkway; and Pine Bluffs Community Center, 708 Lawson St.

You also still have one more day to vote early, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday, in the atrium of the Laramie County Governmental Complex, 309 W. 20th St.

Laramie County residents have a history of supporting progress through the sixth-penny sales tax. Here’s hoping everyone listed on the ballot has reason to celebrate Tuesday night.

WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK: Contact us via email at opinion@wyomingnews.com.

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