SPET spat on again for Monday as deadline draws near

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Town and county elected officials will be up against it Monday afternoon as they meet again to discuss what to put on a SPET ballot for November and for how much.

The Board of County Commissioners and the Town Council have been given a July 17 deadline by county clerk Sherry Daigle to have something ready for ballot wording. Otherwise, the opportunity to put the extra penny tax in place will be missed and sales tax will drop in Teton County by 1 percent as soon as previously approved projects are all fully funded.

The holdup has been whittling dozens of identified potential initiatives totaling hundreds of millions of dollars into something more manageable for voters to choose from this fall. A SPET ballot has never contained more than 11 projects or more than $70 million.

In 2017, a year after approving $6 million via SPET to fix Budge Slide, voters were faced with a sticker-shocking $68.6 million in projects. They shot down more than half of that ($34,180,000) in proposed spending.

The other stumbling block electeds have created for themselves is the bundling issue. First proposed by town council members as a way to get core municipal capital improvements funded, the idea of grouping all or some of the SPET list items has been met with fierce resistance.

No one on the BCC has shown much interest in going that route. Commissioner Mark Barron even sent out a newsletter to members of the community titled “Bundling SPET is Not the Answer.”

“The all-or-nothing ballot tactic smells of pork-barrel spending and may well not succeed in garnering public trust or the desired outcome of those who favor this tactic. You and I have heard from an overwhelming majority of our friends and neighbors that a one bundle SPET approach will get a ‘no’ vote from them,” Barron stated in the correspondence.

A powerful business-oriented lobbying group, Jackson Hole Working, has also gone on record as being opposed to bundling SPET. The group’s members include prominent local businesspeople including Ted Staryk, Kevin Kavanaugh, Kelly Lockhart, John Carney, Anna Cole, John Stennis, Joe Rice, Sadek Darwiche and others.

“SPET’s motto is ‘Your penny, your projects, your vote,’” JH Working reminded town and county elected officials recently. “We ask that you do not bundle SPET initiatives and allow voters the opportunity to weigh in on community capital projects and exercise their right to support each project on its merits.”

Former town council member Don Frank has also written the town and urged them to reconsider bundling SPET initiatives.

The county appears staunchly opposed to bundling judging from their unanimous vote to list SPET ballot items ala carte. The town is split 3-2 with Mayor Pete Muldoon showing no sign of backing down from his plan to link less popular government spending propositions with other initiatives like wildlife crossings, that might be viewed more favorably.

Both the commission and the council must pass the same agreement within their respective boards in order for SPET to move forward in 2019. A special JIM is scheduled for Monday, July 15 at 1 pm in the county chambers.

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