Wyoming Special Districts

Special districts provide services that local governments either do not or are not able to provide. There has been a movement toward special districts to provide these services because they can tax property without adding to state or county tax rates, and in a state like Wyoming the local government is not always large enough to provide services. Additionally special districts allow rural citizens to tax themselves to provide services and keep more control by having local people run the district.

Wyoming statues provide for special districts to be created by voter approval or by state boards and agencies, depending on their intended purpose, and there are limitations on the amount of mills a district can levy. Voter approved debt can be added above the mill limit.

As of 2012, the Department of Audit counted 652 special districts in Wyoming. They provide local services ranging from cemeteries to fire protection and solid waste removal. The districts vary in size and authority, and specifics on their individual powers are available below.

There have been concerns in the past regarding transparency and accountability, however recent legislative efforts have attempted to address these issues, with new reporting requirements passed in 2002 and further legislation dealing with elections in 2008, and legislation dealing with specific district’s issues in 2009.

Basic information on Wyoming special districts is included below. For specific information on the taxes levied by county click on the name of a district below:

  • Hospitals and Health
    • Hospital Districts – 6 mill limit provided for by WS 18-8
      • Established by the board of county commissioners on petition of landowners after local referendum
      • Board of trustees elected to govern the district
      • Can fix charges, levy ad valorem taxes and issue bonds with voter approval.
      • Districts can engage in shared services, participate in cooperative ventures, enter partnerships,  be a shareholder of corporations, but tax revenues cannot be used for these purposes
    • Rural Healthcare – 4 mill limit provided for by WS 35-2
      • Established by petition to the county commissioners after public hearing and referendum.
      • An elected board of trustees governs each district.
      • The districts may levy ad valorem taxes and after voter approval issue bonds
      • Districts can engage in shared services, participate in cooperative ventures, enter partnerships and be a shareholder of corporations. Tax revenues may not be used for any of these purposes.
  • Fire - 3 mill limit provided for by WS 35-9
    • Established by petition and subject to hearing and referendum or in unincorporated areas by resolution of the board of county commissioners and subject to referendum.
    • An elected board of directors governs each district.
    • May levy ad valorem taxes and issue bonds with voter approval.
  • Cemetery - 3 mill limit provided for by WS 35-8
    • Established by board of county commissioners with a petition of local landowners and a referendum
    • An elected board of trustees governs each district.
    • Can levy taxes, sell lots and issue bonds with voter approval.
  • Recreation -1 mill limit provided for by WS 18-9
    • Established by school districts or governing bodies independently or jointly for the purpose of providing public recreation.
    • Governed by a board of trustees appointed by the school boards
    • Revenues include gifts and donations and a tax levied by the school district and transferred to the Board of Cooperative Education Services for administration and accounting.
  • Conservation - 1 mill limit provided for by WS 11-16
    • Established by the state board of agriculture on petition of landowners and after a public hearing and referendum.
    • An elected board of supervisors governs each district.
    • The districts may require contributions from benefitted landowners, may accept donations, and may levy taxes upon voter approval.
  • Water and Sewer - 8 mill limit provided for by WS 41-10
    • Established by the board of county commissioners on petition with a referendum.
    • Districts may be created for either or both purposes and may include all or a portion of the unincorporated area of the county.
    • An elected board of directors governs each district.
    • The district may levy ad valorem taxes and special assessments, fix rates and charges, and issue bonds with voter approval.
  • Solid Waste - 3 mill limit provided for by WS 18-11
    • Established upon resolution of the board of county commissioners.
    • A board appointed by the county commissioners governs each district.
    • The district may fix rates for the use of its facilities
    • May levy an ad valorem tax with voter approval.
  • Improvement and Development Special Districts
    • Improvement Districts - Bonds and Interest only provided for by WS 18-12
      • Created in unincorporated areas by petition of majority land owners to the county commissioners.
      • Elected board of directors governs each district, board resolutions for proposed improvements subject to approval by property owners at public hearing.
      • Districts can levy ad valorem taxes and special assessments, fix and collect user charges, receive contributions, and issue bonds with voter approval.
      • District board has the power to create local improvement districts
    • Development Districts – 30 mill limit on commercial and industrial property provided for by WS 15-9
      • Established after petition of 25% of nonresidential property owners, public hearing, ordinance by municipality
      • Board appointed by governing municipality
      • Can acquire property by purchase, lease, license, option, gift and grant
      • Can collect fees, issue bonds and levy ad valorem taxes
      • Can cooperate with local municipality or other governments
  • Senior Citizens and Museum Special Districts
    • Museum Districts – 1 mill limit provided for by WS 18-10
      • Established on petition of landowners and after public hearing and local referendum.
      • An elected board of trustees governs each district.
      • The district may levy ad valorem taxes and make any necessary rules and regulations for operation of the museum.
      •  Bond issues must have voter approval.
    • Senior Citizen Districts – 2 mill limit provided for by WS 18-15
      • Organized following resolution of the county boar d of commissioners and public referendum or citizen petition and public referendum
      • Elected five member board of trustees
      • May levy an ad valorem tax subject to referendum.
      • Districts may accept gifts and grants

Sources: US Census Bureau, Wyoming State Statutes, Wyoming Legislative Services Office

 

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