This post is written and paid for by Jackson Hole Working
JACKSON, Wyo. — This year, along with candidates for Town, County, Governor, and everything in between, will also see an election of projects up for your vote.
Specific Purpose Excise Tax (SPET) is an effective way for our community to fund projects while also allowing citizens to choose which projects matter to them.
This year, on the slate being considered by the town council and county commission for inclusion on the ballot are sixteen projects ranging from housing to fire stations and conservation to education. Right now, the proposals add up to slightly over $226 million. Elected officials have discussed limiting total SPET ballot items to $100 – $120 million by eliminating projects, lowering project price requests, and other adjustments.
The bulk of these funds and project proposals are directed to housing – County employees, Town employees, Teton County School District employees, St John’s Health employees, senior living, transitional housing and community-at-large employees totaling $137 million.
Housing is foundational to Teton County. Whether running a small pizza place or the entire public school district, housing is the number one need to ensure that businesses and organizations can function and provide services.
However, we know that all these projects will not be funded at the current amounts if the Town Council and County Commission wants to keep the 2022 SPET total to $120 million or less.
Outside of the critical St. John’s and school district employee proposals, SPET housing items would make better sense to have one fund item to approve. This would allow entities to obtain funds once they have finalized construction documents, a guaranteed maximum price, and a firm date for a groundbreaking.
This one housing fund would ensure that we have concrete costs and timelines and provide folks with an incentive to be prime time ready sooner rather than later. Without this motivation, it can take three to five years to start building once a SPET housing project is approved. Providing motivation is critical to protect taxpayer dollars and ensure that the outcomes we support with our vote occur in a timely manner.
The Town and County have an effective model of providing land and some funding for individual housing projects and securing an amount of “first-right” units in exchange. This model ensures that private solutions are brought to the table while also providing a win-win for the community and public housing units.
Private-public partnerships have been very successful over the last several years. Supporting language that would encourage these models would also ensure that our public funds go even further in creating housing. Mercill, West Kelly, Jackson Street Apartments, Redmond Hall – these projects all represent the power of public-private partnerships with housing our community.
Housing is an overall goal and crisis for our entire community. Our small business community, many of whom cannot afford to build housing units, contribute these very SPET taxes through their goods and services that will create this housing.
It is critical that ballot measures are vetted to have broad community support and achieve our overall goals.