I will be honest: I don't pay that much attention to the different theories and technicalities of funding local government as a general rule. I do have a general distaste for the mysterious way in which schools were funded when I was growing up (and probably still) in Ohio, because it always seemed to be [this close] to failing—in fact, when I was in high school, there was a terrible game of tax chicken played that resulted in cutting the entire bus system for a school year and a whole host of other unpleasant losses as a result. I was too young to understand the details, but I sure remember how awful it was to have buses and sports and extra-curricular activities and investing in good schools be the bargaining tool of very angry people.
Needless to say, I love the concept of how Laramie County funds the things that make Cheyenne so liveable: the sixth penny tax. The state sales tax rate is 4%, and there's another 1% in our county that is used for specific purposes like roads, and then a voluntary 1% tax (the sixth penny tax) that goes into effect when the community votes on adding it to save up money for projects deemed good for the city. Once the money is collected, the tax stops until it's voted to be started up again. This is how our beautiful, state-of-the-art, never-can-find-a-parking-space library was rebuilt; it also benefits the more rural parts of the county by providing a revenue stream for projects that would otherwise be too expensive. Anyone who pays sales tax on a purchase contributes—tourists in from overseas for Cheyenne Frontier Days to 9 year olds spending their birthday money at Target—and eventually, enough is saved to do something important. I do not mind this tax even one little bit, and take pride in how our money spent locally benefits this community we've called home for a whole lot of years. (Incidentally, we've been legal voting residents of Wyoming since 2000, because transient military life allows you to establish your residency somewhere and keep it.)
There are nine 6th penny propositions up for a vote on May 2, totaling many millions of dollars, and spanning a wide variety of projects. One of those propositions includes a replacement facility for the city's gymnastics program, which is a very important part of our everyday life around here. While the City of Cheyenne does offer USA Gymnastics accredited programs (multiple levels of Xcel and Junior Olympics), it isn't just benefiting competitive gymnasts—the program currently offers over 30 classes, open gym sessions, and cheerleading training in addition to a Special Olympics program that operates during the school year. The gym is so well-run as a program but the current facility, built in 1974, is woefully inadequate for space, condition, and equipment:
- It has identified issues with asbestos.
- The roof leaks bucketfuls of water when it rains, and ceiling tiles fall down inside and onto the training space—no one has been injured by one of these falling roof tiles, but when you look up and see where they've come down it's easy to see that it's only a matter of time.
- The space isn't big enough to have a regulation vault path, which makes it difficult for advanced gymnasts to vault properly... while the girls did suggest half-seriously that they could open the door to the parking lot and extend the vault runway outside, it isn't really the fix that would... fix it.
- There is no pit, nor way to install a pit, because the equipment sits on a hard surface basketball-like floor.
- It is nearly impossible for parents to watch from time to time without completely being in the way; it's a tight space, and with as many gymnasts are training in there at any given time, it's very, very crowded.
- There is only space for one full bar set—which limits the amount of time on equipment for everyone.
- It's busting-at-the-seams full.
Come see for yourself—it isn't a frivolous request to fix these issues.
The city gymnastics program has been in existence for over 25 years, serving hundreds of kids in that time; even if most don't go on to the crazy competitive gymnast schedule we run, there is no question that gymnastics is good for kids of all athletic abilities. It teaches discipline, safe risk-taking, physical awareness, and strength; it's also a great way to burn off some energy in the middle of the winter, which is how we got started in the first place so many years ago. Proposition 7 raises 6th penny money for a few causes, and building a modern replacement for the current facility is just one of those projects.
We've lived in enough places to know that it isn't always a guarantee that communities invest in themselves. Cheyenne has managed to build and maintain world-class facilities that make it a truly great place to live, and I so hope the option remains to continue funding the various visions of citizens who love it here, too. Polling stations will be open on May 2.