Plans for budget items with large tickets, including police headquarters and a new No. 1 fire station and administrative room, require public support for a nationwide special excise tax. This is the first hurdle – getting voters from all over Natrona County to levy a tax on facilities that primarily serve the city of Casper. The second, of course, is the economic downturn sparked by the pandemic. Napier said there was no way officials could call on the electorate to vote for an additional tax while many were already being financially hurt.
Casper Mayor Steve Freel said these setbacks did not remove police and fire projects from the table, they only slowed their progress. His top priority in the meantime is to ensure that essential city services are adequately funded to continue operations. Once that’s done, the city can focus on recovery while vaccines are rolled out and companies are allowed to return to their pre-pandemic operations.
“If companies are not open and do not generate income, taxes are not generated,” said Freel. “So we have to reopen the shops and get back to some kind of normalcy. Whatever the new normal is, we just have to come back to it. “
Both Freel and Napier hope that the state-funded CARES Act funds will come to the rescue and help the city offset some of its losses from unexpected pandemic costs. According to Freel, Casper spent between $ 25,000 and $ 50,000 on personal protective equipment (PPE) at the start of the pandemic. In addition, Freel said funds from the existing budget have been used to pay staff to stay home and manage quarantine facilities that have been set up across the city.