State Briefs

Vanguard sues Sublette Co. for tax refund

PINEDALE (WNE) — Hit once after setting their budgets and not adjusting them for uncollected taxes, county entities could get hit again after a company that filed bankruptcy is suing Sublette County for a refund of $2.4 million in taxes already paid.

Earlier this year, Sublette County Treasurer Roxanna Jensen traveled to bankruptcy court in Texas, to testify and provide proof the defunct Vanguard Natural Resources, LLC., owes Sublette County $2.4 million in assessed tax valuation for the second half of 2016.

However, Jensen was served with legal documents last week, demanding a $2.4 million refund and interest for the first half taxes that were previously paid.

In June, the county was left scrambling and moving funds to cover smaller boards and entities that set their 2017-2018 budget based on the county’s 2016 assessed valuation. The problem was that Vanguard paid the first half of taxes, but then the company filed bankruptcy. That meant Sublette County received $2.4 million less than initially budgeted for the second half taxes due.

Vanguard filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Feb. 1, 2017, and filed a reorganization plan on July 31, 2017. On Jan. 1 of each year, counties in Wyoming assess an ad valorem tax on oil and gas production within the county. Those taxes must be paid by Dec. 31 to ensure there is no penalty.

After receiving a Sept. 1, 2016, invoice due on Dec. 31, 2016, Vanguard paid $2,490,829.74 to the county on Jan. 31, 2017.

Vanguard is asking the court to void the payment made to the county, dismiss further claims by Sublette County for the second-half assessment due and require the county to repay the $2.4 million as well as any interest due since Jan. 31, 2017.

Sheridan County cat infected with plague

SHERIDAN (WNE) — A Sheridan County cat has recently been confirmed as infected with plague, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. No human cases have been identified in the area.

The cat’s home is in Big Horn and the animal is known to wander outdoors in the area. The illness was confirmed by the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory in Laramie last week.

“Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for pets and for people if not treated as soon as possible with antibiotics,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH. “The disease can be transmitted to humans from ill animals and by fleas coming from infected animals. We want people to know of the potential threat in the cat’s home area as well as across the state.”

“While the disease is rare in humans, we assume the risk for plague exists all around Wyoming,” Harrist said.

Six human cases of plague have been exposed in Wyoming since 1978 with the last one investigated in 2008. There are an average of seven human cases across the nation each year.

Gillette College enrollment declines

GILLETTE (WNE) — Gillette College has been used to more than a decade of increasing enrollment, but that didn’t happen this fall semester.

The head count of students in fall 2018 fell to 906, declining by 36 students compared to a year ago at the same time.

At Sheridan College and Johnson County outreach, the opposite was true. Enrollment increased to 1,148 at Sheridan College, up by 29 students compared to a year ago, and 45 at Johnson County, an increase of 14.

“We have seen ebbs and flows during our decade of incredible growth,” Gillette College Vice President Mark Englert said Wednesday morning.

“The current decline is primarily reflective of our returning student population. This is due in part to a record number of graduates in May. Also, when unemployment is high, we typically see more people go back to school.

“When it is low, such as now, many people are choosing to work full time and even take on extra shifts, rather than taking college courses.”

The most important number, Englert said, may be the number of first-time degree-seeking students attending Gillette College this fall. That is up about 35 percent since fall 2014.