Wyoming Association of Municipalities to discuss 14 resolutions

SHERIDAN — When the Wyoming Association of Municipalities convenes in Laramie June 8-10, it will discuss 14 resolutions the Wyoming Legislature could eventually consider.

Sheridan City Administrator Stuart McRae said the 14 resolutions address a variety of subjects affecting cities and towns throughout the state, from retail liquor licenses to property taxes.

The resolutions discussed include six from the city of Casper, four from Jackson Hole and one each from Cheyenne, Cody, Hartville and Lingle, McRae said. 

While the city of Sheridan and the towns of Ranchester, Dayton and Clearmont are not proposing any resolutions this year, representatives from each municipality will have a chance to vote on the resolutions being proposed, McRae said.

On June 9, the association will vote on the resolutions during its general membership meeting, which is part of its annual summer convention. If the resolutions pass the general membership meeting, they will be submitted for legislative consideration in the coming 2023 general session, McRae said.

Below is a quick rundown of resolutions WAM will consider next month.

From Casper: Gambling revenues, liquor licenses, legal matters

The first of Casper’s six resolutions involves changing the distribution of revenue from skills-based gambling and parimutuel betting taking place within municipal boundaries. Currently, cities and counties receive equal shares of the revenue, McRae said.

“What (Casper is) requesting is, because cities offer up all the policing that takes place inside the city, they want a higher cut of that revenue that comes in,” McRae said.

Another resolution would amend state statute to implement alternative sources of revenues for municipalities.

“WAM has done a couple studies on how to get alternative revenues to cities, and this resolution is to take those things and start moving forward (with those recommendations) at the state level,” McRae said.

Two resolutions deal with legal matters. One would create a standardized system for responding to  reports of missing persons and set minimum standards for investigating those cases. Another would amend the sentencing penalties to deter crimes against vulnerable people, McRae said.

“Basically, there’s two elements to this (sentencing penalties bill),” McRae said. “One is a steeper penalty for those who perpetrate crimes against health care workers, teachers, any people who have to be in a position where they’re vulnerable to somebody who is stalking them…The other one is a stiffer penalty for people who are in authority who take advantage of that power…. (It says) people in a position of authority who take advantage of that authority to do inappropriate things should be held to a higher sentencing guideline.”

Another resolution would address pharmacy benefit managers: the third-party administrators of prescription drug programs.

“They’re actually part of the insurance companies, and they have a monopoly on this stuff,” McRae said. “They’re charging more to customers and less to providers, so Casper is trying to make changes to this system that would do no harm to the customers and the providers.”

Lastly, Casper is recommending a resolution setting retail liquor license fees at fair market value. The city of Cheyenne is recommending a similar resolution and the two will likely be combined for consideration during the June WAM meeting, McRae said.

“What they’re going to be suggesting is using some sort of formula that takes the population —  like a dollar per person — as the cost of that license,” McRae said. “So in our case, instead of (the current cost of) $1,500, it would be $18,737, which is our current population.”

The liquor license resolution inspired the most conversation and controversy among Sheridan city councilors at a study session earlier this week.

“I guess I don’t understand how it’s business friendly to raise the cost of a liquor license so much that only a certain group of people can buy them,” Councilor Kristen Jennings said. “$1,500 levels the playing field for everyone, but if you raise it, that immediately cuts a lot of people out.”

Councilor Aaron Linden spoke in favor of the resolution.

“These (licenses) come along very rarely, and I think that, when they do, it’s not unreasonable to ask that kind of price for one of these — especially when a bar and grill license is going for $10,500,” Linden said. “So I would be in favor of this.”

From Jackson Hole: Cost of living and property taxes

The first of Jackson Hole’s four resolutions supports the creation of county-specific cost-of-living indices, McRae said. Currently, there are regional indices incorporating multiple counties, which doesn’t always provide the best picture of the cost-of-living situation, McRae said.

“In the case of Jackson in particular, they’re lumped in with counties that are totally, radically different,” McRae said. “The data is there, and they’re asking for the Economic Analysis Division to do it by county rather than region.”

Another proposed resolution would put a limit on yearly property tax growth, McRae said. This year alone, Sheridan County residents saw an increase of between 10% and 60% in property assessments, Sheridan County Assessor Paul Fall previously told The Sheridan Press.

“What they’re trying to do is create language that puts some kind of cap on that: either percentage-wise or cost-wise,” McRae said. “It would help keep longtime residents from having to leave the area.”

Other resolutions from Jackson would ask the state liquor division to set guidelines for outdoor food and beverage service and support efforts to broaden municipal revenue options, McRae said.

From elsewhere in the state: Taxes, public notices

A resolution from Cody asks the Legislature to change the distribution of sales tax revenues. Currently, the state receives 70 percent of sales tax revenues while the remaining 30 percent is split between cities, towns and counties. 

The resolution would change that distribution to a 50-50 split between the state and local governments, McRae said.

A resolution from Hartville requests the ability to do liens when people don’t pay their public utilities bills. 

Lastly, a resolution from Lingle requests the ability to not publish public notices in a local newspaper.

“Right now, by statute, you have to publish a number of things, and for a town of 403 people like Lingle, that’s a pretty big expense on their part,” McRae said. “So they’re just asking for that to be relieved.”

The subject of eliminating public notice requirements comes up frequently in the Wyoming Legislature, most recently in 2021, when it died on third reading in the House.