In January at their annual retreat, Jackson Town Council decided to bring a 7th cent of sales tax before the voters. At the time, they’d hoped to use that revenue to fund new or additional work on affordable housing, transportation, and climate, to name a few priorities. With a dozen other conservation partners, we urged representatives to use the 7th cent for ecosystem stewardship so that local government would finally invest in the core of our vision as outlined in our Comprehensive Plan.
But now, four months later, our local government finds itself in a much different world. COVID-19 has shut down all non-essential businesses, and even as the health department helps us look to safely re-opening, sales taxes from summer tourism certainly won’t provide anywhere near the usual amount of government funding. The town is predicting at least a 50% decrease in budgets and considering using their rainy day fund, while the county is considering $5.3 million in budget cuts and layoffs.
Coronavirus has made us all realize the importance of community – how much we rely on critical government services, community organizations, and local experts, and how much we rely on our ecosystem for our mental and physical health. That’s why we still still support the 7th cent of sales tax. Let’s invest in our community’s immediate health and recovery now, while ensuring our continued health in the future by supporting conservation.
Read our letter to Jackson Town Council and Teton County Commission below or here.
May 1, 2020
Town of Jackson Mayor & Town Council
Teton County Board of County Commissioners
RE: Additional penny of sales tax – May 4 JIM discussion
Dear Mayor Muldoon, Madame Chair Macker, Councilors & Commissioners,
First, we can’t thank you enough for your service in this challenging time. I know the mental and emotional toll of leading an organization in this time, so I can only imagine the impact on your personal lives from your weighty decisions about public health and budgets. Thank you.
As you know, we have been very interested in discussing a potential 7th penny, and using those funds for conservation, housing that’s affordable to local workers, and transportation solutions. Since we sent our last letter detailing the need and potential uses of funds for conservation, the world has radically changed. We want to share two reactions:
We support calls from the business community to delay this conversation. People are hurting and struggling, and now is a scary time to talk about taxes. While we don’t want to give up on the November ballot right now, we’re happy to postpone the discussion for a month, when hopefully everyone has a lot more information and certainty than we do now. Also, we know that much of our community is entirely focused on health and economics, so we support pausing big discussions like this (or zip lines on Snow King, helicopter tours, etc) until we return to what Public Health has called the “New Normal” green zone.
If you do have this conversation on Monday, please consider a two-phase funding plan that includes both short-term and long-term needs. Here is a “back of the napkin” idea to help the conversation along:
- Short-term recovery: funds in the first two years go towards health care, emergency services, human services, and business recovery; with a small portion dedicated to laying the foundation for our long-term sustainability.
- Long-term sustainability / community preservation: funds after the first two years go to the Comprehensive Plan priorities of conservation / ecosystem stewardship (please see our previous letter for details), affordable housing, and transportation. A portion could also go to human services or other continuing recovery needs.
We and our partners across sectors are at your service to help develop these ideas further.
Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance