From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 45 - November 6, 2008
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SPET and Lodging taxes are defeated

by Jonathan Van Dyke

Sublette County emphatically said “no” to further taxing during Tuesday’s election, voting against the Special Purpose Excise Tax (SPET) and the Lodging Tax.

Coming into the day, perhaps no issue had a more uncertain fate than the SPET. Supporters had gone through a long and arduous process of promoting the measure, but in the end the tax was denied with 63 percent of voters tallying against it.

“The majority in the county has spoken,” said Angie Smith, chairperson for the project. “And unfortunately, [voters] didn’t see these projects as needed projects.”

The SPET measure would have increased the sales tax by one-cent in order to pay for the Big Piney/Marbleton Recreation Center and the Pinedale Community Center. However, only voters in the Big Piney 2-1 and Marbleton 2-2 precincts voted for the initiative — both with 52 percent in favor. For the rest of the county, the measure was soundly defeated. Pinedale 1-1 voted 65 percent against and Pinedale 1-3 voted 70 percent against. Rural precincts were even less likely to pass the measure — averaging over 70 percent against.

“I can say I was concerned in reaching the Bondurant, Cora and Boulder areas,” Smith said. “I think those are very rural areas that probably seek entertainment in a different way. [The two projects] are something they’re not going to look for.”

When Smith and her Big Piney/Marbleton Recreation Center Board originally sent out letters of interest in just the southern half of the county, responses were only about 26 percent in favor of a possible measure. The Pinedale Community Center was brought onto the ballot in hopes of uniting votes from both sides of the county.

“The people that were behind it then are still behind it, and we’ve gained a few followers, but as a majority this wasn’t as much of a need as we hoped,” Smith said.

Where to go next is the big question for organizers of the SPET. The county has already said that it will not fund either project.

“At this point I don’t have a Plan B,” Smith said. “This was it. I don’t see there being another option. It doesn’t look like something that could be funded privately.”

However, Smith said she and her determined organizers would meet and go back to the drawing board, with hopes that some sort of new path could be found.

“I do believe the people that are behind these projects are going to consider other alternatives, but at this point, I don’t see what that will be,” she said.

— Voters also chose not to extend the Lodging Tax, with about 50 percent against and 47 percent in favor. The margin of defeat was 126 votes.

“The Tourism Board is, of course, very disappointed that the Lodging Tax did not pass,” said Mary Thompson, board member. “It is more important than ever to promote Sublette County’s bountiful recreation and tourism attractions.

“If you look at the list of county-wide events we have helped with advertising dollars, as well as the reach we have had through our advertising budget to promote Sublette County, the loss of the tax will be significant in our communities.”

The three percent Lodging Tax was specific to the hotel industry, and helped fund the Tourism Board for promoting Sublette County tourism.

For the time being, the board will continue to function normally. It appears that funding will last until at least March and April, and maybe even through the entire fiscal year. But without the tax, the board will ultimately dissolve sometime next year.

“We thank everyone who did vote in support of the Lodging Tax,” Thompson said.

“We are sincerely impressed by the many outstanding events, organizations and tourist-related businesses that this county claims, in which we played an active role supporting.”

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