Lander, Shoshoni approve changes to economic development tax distributions

    The Lander City Council and Shoshoni Town Council both approved the proposed change to the countywide agreement for economic development sales tax distributions this week.

    The Riverton City Council and the Hudson Town Council have approved the proposal, too, meaning the required majority of local communities have passed the change.

    If Fremont County voters renew the half percent sales tax for economic development this fall, the new agreement will take effect on Jan. 1, increasing the amount of economic development funding going toward air and ground transportation and creating a new allocation to support the county ambulance service.

    h/t City of Lander


    Lander City Councilmember Missy White asked about the new allocation for ambulance services during a council work session last month, expressing her opinion that Fremont County should contribute more economic development funding toward that item than other local communities.

    “It was, for me, personally, a little frustrating that, soon after the county turned back two mills of their property tax, they came back to say, ‘We can’t afford this countywide service,’” White said. “My preference is to see (them) do a combination of … reinstating one of the two mills and then using the lion’s share of the economic development funds that they receive for ambulance service.”

    She added that ambulances have to drive farther and incur more costs to reach county constituents, and there are fewer businesses in county jurisdiction that could benefit from economic development funding for individual projects.

    Her suggested changes weren’t not incorporated into the agreement the council considered this week, however, and White voted against the proposal.


    “I would prefer to see different allocations from the county,” she said.

    The Shoshoni Town Council also talked about the ambulance allocation this week, with Shoshoni Police Department Chief Chris Konija asking whether Shoshoni’s local ambulance would qualify for some of the economic development funding earmarked for that service.

    “We have an ambulance here in Shoshoni,” he said. “Can we use that money for our ambulance, or does it have to go to the county?”

    Kevin Kershisnik with Forward Fremont County – the group promoting the economic development tax – said the answer to that question hasn’t been “defined” yet, but his “take on it” is that Shoshoni’s ambulance “would be eligible” for some of the funding, just like ground transportation organizations throughout the county are able to apply for tax revenues earmarked for ground transportation.


    The difference, Kershisnik noted, is that the Fremont County Association of Governments administers the ground transportation funds, while Fremont County is slated to administer the ambulance funds.

    That arrangement isn’t “perfect,” Mayor Joel Highsmith said, recalling that the county hasn’t “showed us (much) love on the ambulance.”

    “They say right now they have no obligation to provide ambulance service to us,” he said. “It’s hard to put a lot of trust in what the county’s going to do or not do.”


    Kershisnik said Shoshoni can ask FCAG to modify the economic development funding distribution agreement again if the new set-up “turns out to be a bad deal.”

    “We could adjust how the funds are allocated at that time if it becomes problematic,” he said. “At this point we don’t anticipate that, but … it could happen.”


    Looking at the “overall picture,” Highsmith said incorporating the ambulance service into the economic development funding distribution agreement “enhances the chance of the half cent tax passing countywide.”

    “The ambulance service is very popular amongst the people in the county,” he said. “(There’s) concern that we don’t know what our county commissioners are going to do if they don’t get some help subsidizing. … They can’t afford to keep pulling this out of their general fund.”

    The commission could have asked voters to approve a special tax district to help fund the ambulance service, or they could have levied more mills, Highsmith said, but both of those options would have raised taxes only for property owners, while the half percent sales tax generates funding from anyone who makes a purchase in Fremont County.

    “Part of our ambulance service will be paid by tourists, and everybody who spends money in Fremont County will be contributing instead of just the landowners,” he said.

    The Dubois Town Council will likely consider the proposed changes to the economic development funding distribution model later this month, according to municipal staff, and Kershisnik said Pavillion and Fremont County have already approved the changes on first reading and will “go back for the second reading” soon.


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