Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo delivered the State of the City Address during the chamber of commerce’s membership connection luncheon on March 10.
“The state of the city is stable. Yet, we’re sailing in somewhat rough and unpredictable waters as you all know,” Kaumo said.
Kaumo addressed the issues businesses have faced over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a rough couple of years with revenues and such. It hasn’t been fun been fun but we’re trying to keep up the pace with what needs to be done and keep our city moving in the right direction.”
During his speech, Kaumo said that one of the issues the city is facing is inflation. He said that it has caused some serious issues when it comes to ongoing projects.
“It’s something that we’ll have to continue to deal with moving forward. We’re seeing roughly 46-60% of an increase in material and labor costs,” Kaumo said.
“Sales and use tax make up about 60% of our general fund operating revenue. We watch this closely due to the uncertainty month to month,” Kaumo said. “Most recently, sales and use tax payments received by the city was a 13% reduction from last month. Here today, we’re about 7% above where we were this time last year.
“It’s somewhat optimistic but by no means is it a sign to celebrate considering the heavy cuts that we’ve seen over the last two budget cycles.”
Kaumo commended the city employees for the work that they have been doing.
“I have to give kudos to our city employees because their commitment to the city of Rock Springs is outstanding,” Kaumo said. “They’re doing much more today with less money and less people than we’ve had in the past years.
“There’s been a strong commitment to keep our city in shape and I commend them all for their efforts.”
Kaumo said that the city will continue to pursue the Middle Baxter Project, as well as the hopes to continue with the Bitter Creek Project.
“We’ll be searching for available funding options for phase two. We just closed up phase one,” Kaumo said. “It runs just behind Plaza Mall and we extended it just past the bridge. Phase two will basically be running from where they left off and up around the corner to where the pedestrian bridge will cross over the creek.”
In addition to the other two projects, Kaumo gave an update on the First Security Bank Project. He said that the inflation issue has affected it.
Phase one has been completed.
“After taking a look at phase two, that price tag for this phase has doubled; basically from $3.2 million to $6.5 million. It’s just crazy. That’s going to lead us to some decisions on what we’re going to do for phase two; whether we’re going to move phase two to a phase two/phase three or look for additional funding for phase two.”
Kaumo added that they have interested businesses that are excited about being located in the building. They are gathering letters of intent that will help to secure the grant for phase two.
The potential specific purpose tax ballot initiative was also covered during Kaumo’s speech.
“We’re going to probably be considering that at the next election with a group of projects. I can tell you right off the bat that the city of Rock Springs got together and decided on projects and an amount of time that we feel would be reasonable. We then submitted that list.”
Kaumo said that they are waiting to hear what the other projects will be and what direction will be taken.
“We’re losing time on this. We feel that there will be a need for a large amount of time to educate the voters and make sure they understand what’s going.”
Kaumo highlighted the need to differentiate the difference between the failed general-purpose tax initiative and the specific purpose tax initiative.
“The general-purpose tax, which we just went through, is general in nature and that money could be spent on general obligations,” Kaumo said. “The specific purpose tax has a specific purpose, specific cost and specific projects that’s brought to the community for them to vote on.”
He also stressed the importance of people in the community showing up to the public meetings held concerning the specific purpose tax.
“This tax is very important to all of our cities, towns and Sweetwater County. It is the only source of revenue for which we can construct needed projects to improve our communities,” Kaumo said. “We all need to get behind this effort in support and do our best to educate the public in its purpose and benefits to our communities as a whole.”
Kaumo said that several public meetings will be held in order to allow the community to ask questions about the process and the tax itself.
“The power of you the voter is strong. We can decide to build a better community or simply let it degrade until it becomes an emergent situation that needs more expensive repairs down the road. Let’s work together in a transparent process to educate one another, educate the public, attend the meetings and decide what our needs are and what we feel is in the best interest of the city and county.”