Penny, pennies

The two additional pennies Albany County collects from sales taxes are being proposed to be brought before the residents for renewal in the August primary election and the November general election.

Albany County has a 6 percent sales tax. The first four pennies in every dollar spent in the county are collected by the state, and the fifth and sixth pennies are collected for local government to use.

Without the support from residents, the city, county and town of Rock River wouldn’t be able to fund projects such as improvements to roads and bridges or organizations such as the Laramie Youth Crisis Center with funding to continue serving the community, Albany County Treasurer Linda Simpson said.

“Laramie has been terrific as far as taxing themselves,” Simpson said. “So many of the projects that we have we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for their support with both the specific purpose tax and the optional sales tax.”

The sixth penny, or the specific purpose tax, is being proposed to appear on the Aug. 21 primary election ballots in Albany County.

How this is used is determined by voters who vote on a list of projects made by county, city of Laramie and town of Rock River officials, Albany County Commissioner Heber Richardson said.

“We come up with a list of projects, (with) a price tag for them, and that money goes to pay for those projects until the tax is collected,” Richardson said. “We have been collecting the 2010 sixth penny specific purpose tax and we are just about to finish collecting it.”

Simpson said if the municipalities decide to offer the specific purpose tax, it gives municipalities a chance to improve infrastructure, fund public services and other projects municipalities otherwise wouldn’t have funding for in their budgets.

“We all try to come up with special capital projects that would benefit the (residents) of Albany County,” Simpson said. “The three entities will be meeting next week to determine if they want to start working on another sixth penny.”

According to information provided by the Albany County Clerk’s Office, the sixth penny was most recently used for several items such as paying mortgage debt for the Laramie Plains Civic Center, improvements to the city’s water infrastructure and improving Rock River’s sewer infrastructure.

During the general election, voters could choose to renew the fifth penny tax, or optional sales tax, which is used for miscellaneous government expenses and providing funding for organizations that provided services to the community, Albany County Clerk Jackie Gonzales said. The fifth penny is scheduled to be on the general election ballot Nov. 6, and it would provide the county with about $750,000 in additional funding she said.

“The fifth penny is used for providing funding to community service partners, like SAFE Project and the Downtown Clinic,” Gonzales said. “On the county side, the money is used for miscellaneous services within the county.”

Richardson said the commission decides how the funding raised from the optional sales tax is used and the commission typically allocates a third of it to community partners. The amount of funding they receive is determined by how important the services organizations provide are to the community and how much they request when they apply for the funding, he said.

“We decide how to spend it, how to award it when they apply,” he said.

“For the fifth penny, those are the community partners … it is the organizations that do vital functions in the city of Laramie in a much more efficient way than the government could ever do them.”

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