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Lincoln County Commission funds tax refund program

◆ Harmon acknowledges volunteer work for those serving on districts and boards in LC.

As the Lincoln County Commission set the budget for the coming fiscal year, the governing body, for the first time, included money for the tax refund bill. This comes as the Wyoming Legislature prepares a series of property tax relief measures for the 2023 session.

“We adopted the budget, just over $21 million,” Commissioner Jerry Harmon said in an interview with the SVI Media ‘Weekday Wake Up’ program, carried on the radio stations in Kemmerer and Star Valley, (KMER, KDWY and KRSV). “We put half a million aside in a line item for that purpose.”

Harmon continued, “That will work with what the Legislators are working on. We are looking to the Legislature to help us out on that.”

The commissioner noted, “One of the holdbacks is this bill wasn’t funded at the state or county level, now it is. This will help a lot of people do a lot of good come tax time this next year.”

As part of the discussion, Commissioner Harmon commended the work of the special districts with their refinement work on their budgets in recent months.

The commission has been meeting with all of the public districts in recent months. Harmon advised, “People don’t realize how many districts we have in our county — a little more than 50 when you count the fair board, the library board, planning board, recreation commission, weed and pest, Etna Center, both airports, predator board, our hospital districts, school districts, cemetery districts, irrigation districts, fire and EMS.”

During the initial meetings the commission asked them to review their budgets in preparation for the new fiscal year. “We encouraged them to look closely at their budgets and most of them did,” said Harmon.

“Some of them trimmed back their budgets, some weren’t sure they could do that,” the commissioner said. “It was gratifying to work with them and through some of the problems they had.”

Harmon expressed appreciation to all of the volunteer work on the boards and districts. “They don’t get near enough thanks,” the commissioner emphasized. “That’s over 150 people serving on boards and commissions on their own time and most are volunteers. They have been appointed or elected to those boards and they do a super job.”

As the Lincoln County Commission makes adjustments by funding the tax refund bill and helping with cuts at the district level, four different property tax options are under consideration in preparation for the 2023 Wyoming Legislative session. The options, prepared by the Star Valley Legislative delegation, were recently presented to a Legislative subcommittee focused on finding property tax relief plans for Wyoming.

In addition some of the information has been submitted for consideration as individual property tax relief bills in the upcoming Legislative session.

A summary of the options are listed below:

• Option 1

Place a maximum percentage increase that residences, businesses and commercial buildings (all other) property owners can experience each year. i.e. the maximum percentage increase per year would be “x” percent, regardless of the property assessment increase.

a. Would require a Constitutional Amendment.

b. This would be initiated by a legislative resolution.

c. Several states have this in place and their allowable increase ranges from 2% up to 10% per year.

d. It appears the cap increase would have to be less than 5% to ease the heavy increases.

• Option 2

Lower the reduction multiplier for homes, businesses and commercial buildings (all other) from 9.5% down to as potentially low as 7.5%.

a. This could be done with a Legislative Bill

b. This could represent as much as a 20% decrease in property taxes.

c. The downside would be non-growth counties would experience a significant decrease in local tax revenue.

• Option 3

Revamp the Assessment System to provide a Base that stays constant while you own your property.

a. Would require a Constitutional Amendment

b. This option would lock in “all other” property values at the 2019 assessed value.

c. That assessed value would be fixed as long as you own your property. No more market adjustments. No more appraisals. No inspections.

d. New homes and additions to homes would be assessed on a variable construction cost per square foot basis.

e. All existing home purchases since 2019 would be assessed at the higher valued rate.

f. County Assessors offices should be able to reduce their staff size.

g. This is a major shift from the way we do it now and would require a lot of thought and investigation.

• Option 4

Reactivate a Homeowner’s Tax Credit program which is already on the books, but not active.

a. The Revenue Department has shared this option with us.

b. Originally set with a state reimbursement to counties & cities, but it wouldn’t have to be.

c. It would require Legislative action.

d. Upfront reimbursement, which means the initial tax bill would be reduced automatically.

e. There would be no forms to fill out or income level to document.

f. It would be a formula that could be adjusted over time; every property valued at, say, less than a million dollars (legislature to pick the value) would experience a sliding scale reduction in taxes.

g. It sounds easy but would be complicated to set up. Once established it could accomplish the goal without a constitutional amendment.

Let us know what you think!