Casper City Council Approves Most One-Cent Requests; Nixes Funding For Civic Auditorium
The Casper City Council on Tuesday tentatively approved slightly more than $3 million for about 25 community agencies if Natrona County voters renew the Optional One-Cent Sales Tax in the Nov. 6 general election.
Only one group received all it wanted, a few received close to what they asked, but most received much less.
That amount is a small fraction of the estimated $58 million the tax is estimated to raise the next four years.
City Council will direct about $52 million of those revenues to police, fire, water and sewer, streets, parks and other infrastructure.
Casper Mayor Ray Pacheco said council probably will formally approve the tentative recommendations at its meeting next week.
The selection process started last month when 41 nonprofit organizations, government and private social service agencies, and other organizations submitted proposals totaling $13.8 million to the council for projects, capital purchases, operations, salaries and other needs.
The requests from four of those groups -- The Casper Area Transportation Coalition, the Nicolaysen Art Museum, the Platte River Trails Trust, and the Casper Housing Authority -- were removed from the list of 41 and their allocations will be considered with the larger $52 million of infrastructure improvements.
According to a memo that has since been deleted from the city's website, council asked the city staff to evaluate the other requests and consider these guidelines: be conservative in the allocations because the city awarded about $8 million four years ago and that amount did not decline after the economy slowed; don't fund organizations that haven't been funded before; don't fund organizations that may not be legally eligible; and don't fund organizations with late applications.
The city staff recommended funding $3 million total for 22 of the 37 organizations.
City council members then wanted to vote on each of those requests, made their own recommendations for funding, and those recommendations were averaged. Council members recommended $4.1 million for all the applicants.
Tuesday, council members decided to not consider those groups that did not have at least five votes/recommendations, and considered the merits of the others.
They agreed to fund 26 for a total of $3,052,146.
The Casper Ski Patrol was the only one organization received what it requested, which was $3,000 for a new extraction toboggan and other equipment.
Some received close to what they requested, such as the University of Wyoming Agriculture Extension Office, which received $99,013 of the staff recommendation of $100,000; and the Children's Advocacy Project, which received $138,333 of the staff recommendation of $150,000.
Those that received no funding included Poverty Resistance, the federally funded National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, and the YMCA.
The most contentious request was from the Lyric, otherwise known as the Citizens for a Civic auditorium, which asked for $715,000 mostly to pay off its mortgage of its building. The building north of the David Street Station was formerly the Iris Theater and was sold on a contract for deed to the Citizens for a Civic Auditorium in 2015.
The city staff recommended no funding for the Lyric. (This marked the fourth time the CCA has asked for public funding since its founding in 2000.)
Shawn Johnson said he did not like the idea of paying off other people's mortgages, adding he could not see funding this while denying money to Joshua's Storehouse.
City Attorney John Henley said that project did not align with a law about what groups can receive tax revenues. While the Lyric is making money through hosting events, the auditorium itself does not exist, he said.
Mike Huber said it fit with another law that deals with community promotions and that those organizations can receive public funding.
Bob Hopkins said the CCA has struggled and is now at the point of moving forward.
However, Dallas Laird said Henley's point about the possible illegality of funding the Lyric was paramount.
Council narrowly decided to not fund the Lyric.
This is the draft of the Casper City Council's proposed Optional One-Cent Sales Tax Revenue funding with the name of the organization, the amount city staff recommended, the average of the nine City Council member's recommendations; how many votes each organization received; and the Council's recommendations on Tuesday.