State lawmakers are working on legislation that would specify which government-owned properties are tax-exempt in Wyoming.
The issue arose in Fremont County earlier this year, when Shoshoni received a property tax bill for his medical clinic and Lander received one for his golf course and community center.
These facilities would all be exempt from property taxes under the law Project that the Joint Revenue Committee reviewed last month.
During the committee meeting, Wyoming Rep. Pat Sweeney, R-Casper, stressed that the Lander Community and Convention Center was “totally built for the public good” – not to provide a “profit center” for the town.
Other communities also have “heavily subsidized” event centers, Wyoming County Commissioners Association executive director Jerimiah Rieman said, and if all of those properties are taxed, it could be “even more detrimental” to governments. premises to maintain facilities for the public.
Teton County Assessor Melissa Shinkle called it a “tax spiral problem” that also applies to government-owned properties in her jurisdiction, where “taxpayer money buys the land, and the money taxpayers then pay the taxes”.
Wyoming Department of Revenue Director Brenda Henson likened it to “taking money out of one pocket and putting it into another pocket.”
“If I’m a county…I would pay this (tax), and then on the other hand, I would be the beneficiary of these (taxes),” she explained.
Henson added that initially all government-owned properties in Wyoming were tax-exempt.
The rules changed in 1957, she said, when “the voters of this state” decided that tax exemptions should only apply to government-owned properties that are “used primarily for government purposes.” .
“But that term, ‘government objective,’ was never defined,” Henson said. “So here we are in 2022 trying to figure out what (that means).
“It is a political decision of this governing body.”
The committee’s draft bill says “government purpose” includes “health, safety and welfare, education, transportation, infrastructure or administrative purposes.”
Hospitals and community event centers fall under the “health, safety and welfare” category, according to the bill, and golf courses are listed as “infrastructure.”
The Revenue Committee did not vote on the bill last month, opting to postpone discussion until their November meeting so they can learn more about it.