Laramie Mayor Scott Mullner Talks Taxes & Infrastructure Spending
You might have noticed that there was a substantial amount of construction work that took place around Laramie this summer and it is for good reason. It seems like there are "Infrastructure Improvement" signs all over town. We got a chance to sit down with the city of Laramie's Mayor, Scott Mullner, and here is what he had to say about his first year in office as well as all of the projects going on across town.
What has your first year as the City of Laramie's mayor been like?
There were a lot of things that I didn’t expect or know about, [it has taken] a lot more time than I really had expected. It is really interesting and enjoyable though. You get to meet people and be out in the public. It’s been a good time, but it has been a difficult adjustment as well. I have had to learn to live with a lot less sleep than what I was used to.
What have been some of the big accomplishments of 2011 for the city?
The city council has faced a difficult task over the past year. We have had to do a number of things that have raised the fees to citizens of Laramie. The difficult decision was do we not raise these fees and not do the work and let the infrastructure continue to degrade or do we get these things done or at least start to get them done? I voted for doing those things and I believe the council made the right choice in choosing to take on these infrastructure projects. In 2009 we as a city spent about 9 million dollars on infrastructure projects. In 2010 we spent 19 million dollars. In 2011 we have spent about 35 million dollars. You can see that in each of the years we’ve just about doubled what we have been spending on infrastructure. Our city budget annually is only 27 million dollars, so really and truly we are spending a lot of money on infrastructure. A lot of those dollars are grants that the citizens never have to repay, so we as the city feel that we are doing the best that we can for the citizens of Laramie. The people have probably felt the pain of driving around town and not being able to get where they want to go as quickly as they would like to because of the road work, the water work and the sewer work that we have been doing. In 2012 we expect to spend about 34 to 38million dollars, so we are going to continue that high number for some time.”
How do you balance support for the University of Wyoming and the city as a whole?
It’s a difficult balance truly because the university is probably one of the greatest assets a city can have. I believe that the university provides to the city of Laramie art, athletics and events that we would not enjoy any other way. We are a small city that lives like a big city because we have the University of Wyoming here. However that comes at a cost. The University of Wyoming is a state run institution therefore there is no tax base from the University of Wyoming, so the taxes come from all of the employees. They are all, or a large number of them are citizens and then the students [are taxed as well]. There is a trade-off there because we do have to provide all of the infrastructure needs like roads, water, and sewer that the university enjoys. These are all provided by the city so there is a real trade off, but I wouldn’t trade the University of Wyoming for anything because we’ve got a wonderful football team. Men’s and women’s athletics are doing wonderfully and president Buchanan was just in front of the council on Tuesday night, and he said that enrollment will surpass 14,000 this next year, so it’s exciting. I remember going to the university when it was around 10,000, so it has changed substantially and the construction is wonderful for the city as well. It provides lots of jobs and the Nebraska game was a wonderful experience. I was able to tailgating and then go to the game. Although the Cowboys lost it was really an enjoyable experience, and the Nebraska fans were wonderful. I really appreciated them coming and spending as much money as they did in Laramie because our sales taxes are ahead of projections.”