A week from today, thousands of Park County residents will head to the polls, joining thousands of others who’ve already cast their ballots. While just about everyone will pick up their ballot …
A week from today, thousands of Park County residents will head to the polls, joining thousands of others who’ve already cast their ballots. While just about everyone will pick up their ballot knowing how they’re going to vote for president, don’t forget there’s a whole lot more than the race for the White House.
Do you know which judges you want to retain on the bench? Who do you want to help lead Powell Valley Healthcare? How about trustees for Northwest College and the Powell school district? Do you support raising taxes to provide continued or additional government services? And what do you think about pari-mutuel betting?
It’s a good idea to do some homework before heading to the polls, or you might find yourself scratching your head as you guess whether it’s a good idea to amend the Wyoming Constitution and potentially allow municipalities to borrow more money for sewer projects.
The votes that may have the biggest impact on local residents may come at the very end of the ballot, where residents will find a couple of tax proposals. One would raise the local sales tax rate from 4 to 5% for the next four years to provide millions of dollars worth of additional revenue to county and city governments. The other proposal would continue to impose a 4% local tax on lodging, like hotels, motels, campgrounds and AirBnbs — added onto a new 3% statewide lodging tax that lawmakers created earlier this year.
While the knee-jerk reaction might be to vote no — after all, it doesn’t seem like a great idea to raise taxes in the middle of a rough economic patch — consider whether you’re prepared to see fewer services and slower customer service at Powell City Hall and at the Park County Courthouse. Without more revenue, local leaders expect to make cuts — and it’s unlikely that they’ll only cut the things that you feel are unnecessary. And are you willing to bet that we’ll still have the same number of tourists coming to our area if we halve the number of tax dollars heading to the Park County Travel Council to promote our region?
We encourage you to set aside some time to think through your ballot. Read some news articles, talk to trusted friends, skim over a budget, attend Thursday’s school board candidate forum (from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Powell High School auditorium) or call one of your elected officials directly for some insight.
Going into the voting booth with a plan of voting a straight party line ballot won’t work, either, because none of the special district seats are partisan. These are volunteers who put in hours of entirely unpaid work to help our cemeteries, fire districts, hospitals and schools run well and smoothly. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any partisan political agendas on those boards — in fact, we’d suggest to be wary of anyone aiming to push a specific ideology or to grind an axe. Instead, it’s a choice of picking strengths and weaknesses and sorting out whose skills will offer the most to the public.
There’s also a couple of contested races for seats on the Powell City Council and in House District 50 for the Wyoming Legislature. You can look over sample ballots for your precinct — and find a host of other local election information — by visiting www.parkcountyelections.net. (And if you don’t know your precinct, you can look that up using maps on that same site.)
The good news is that getting prepared and making your choice for each office and issue is the hard part, because voting itself is easy in Wyoming.
If you’ve haven’t registered to vote yet, that’s not a problem. You can register at the Park County Courthouse today and vote while you’re there, or you can register at your polling place on Election Day, Nov. 3, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Powell area residents will head to Heart Mountain Hall at the Park County Fairgrounds, Garland residents will cast ballots at the Garland Community Church, Ralston and Heart Mountain voters will go to the Mountain View Clubhouse and Clark residents will head to the Clark Pioneer Recreation Center.
We’d encourage you to get informed and participate; not only does our country depend on an active and engaged citizenry, we know you’ll find it well worth your time.