Teton County’s highest income in the country in 2019 | Wyoming News

JACKSON – “Those are crazy numbers.”

This is how local economic analyst and Jackson city councilor Jonathan Schechter describes Teton County’s income figures from IRS tax return data.

What makes the numbers so “crazy”?

Consider this: According to data compiled by Schechter based on 2019 IRS tax returns – the most recent figures available – the average adjusted gross income for Teton County was $ 312,442. Not only was this the highest average AGI in the country for that year, but it was also the first time a county eclipsed $ 300,000 in average AGI in history.

It was also almost exactly $ 100,000 more than the county that came in at No. 2 nationally, New York County, New York, which is essentially the very wealthy Manhattan Island. New York County had an average AGI of $ 212,534, Schechter said.

As if those numbers weren’t staggering enough, on the Teton County average AGI of $ 312,442 in 2019, the “average non-salary income per return alone was $ 235,186, 11% higher than New York [County]total income figure of, ”Schechter wrote in his most recent CoThrive newsletter.

In other words, 75% of Teton County’s income comes from investments and other non-salary sources, compared to a national average of 31%.

Further illustrating the disparity between Teton County and counties across the country, Schechter said in an interview that the nearly $ 100,000 gap between Teton County at No. 1 and New York County at No. # 2 is slightly greater than the gap between New York County and # 63, Delaware County, Ohio, a wealthy suburb outside of Columbus. Meanwhile, the gap between Delaware County and Rock County, Nebraska, in last place, ranking at No. 3,142, is slightly less than that of $ 91,777, Schechter said, adding ” it’s pretty incredible ”.

And Schechter notes that these are figures for 2019 that do not take into account the ‘COVID migration’ of 2020 and 2021, which has seen even more wealth settle in Jackson Hole and will surely push those numbers up towards the sky.

“Bottom line: if you feel like things aren’t just crazy, but crazy too, there’s a good reason for that,” Schechter said.

And it may get even crazier. Between 2018 and 2019, the average Teton County AGI per return increased by $ 50,942, or 19.5%. While tax return figures for 2020 and 2021 are not yet available, Schechter said it’s a safe bet those numbers would reflect a fair amount of additional wealth having moved into the valley.

“It’s a rough rule of thumb, but between about 10% and 15% of our community rotates each year – probably closer to 10%,” Schechter told News & Guide. “But the number of people who settle here and start claiming residency for the 2020 tax year and then the 2021 tax year, these are people who have an exceptional heritage. … I tend to be reluctant to talk unless it’s something that I feel confident to say or that I’m confident enough to be right, and I’m confident that what we see in 2020 will be good beyond 2019 and 2021 [will be beyond 2020]. “

So what does all this wealth mean for Teton County, and even the state of Wyoming?

Locally, this offers both unique advantages and challenges, Schechter said. For example, on the bright side, Teton County tax return data shows a large amount of charitable donations. In fact, he wrote, “The 2019 $ 33,710 was the highest per return contribution figure on record, 72% more than Teton County’s 2015 figure of $ 19,646 (the previous record). “

Sadly, it looks like a large chunk of the $ 501 million in charitable donations from Teton County residents in 2019 goes outside the community, based on numbers reported by local nonprofits.

“It can’t be proven, but if we had a ton of this income remaining in the county, our nonprofits would have a lot more money than they claim,” Schechter said.

However, he added that some of Teton County’s new residents may be looking to make their mark locally, as evidenced by the record-breaking amount – over $ 19.7 million – raised by the annual Old Bill’s Fun Run. last year. Laurie Andrews, director of the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, which puts Old Bill’s, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

On the negative side of the ledger, he said, is what he calls the “eco / eco dilemma,” where the first “eco” refers to economic development and the second to ecosystem health.

“The dilemma lies in the sad fact that, since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, every place on Earth that has developed a successful industrial or post-industrial economy has, in the process, compromised the health of its ecosystem. Schechter wrote, noting that such an outcome runs counter to the county’s comprehensive plan goal of “preserving and protecting the region’s ecosystem.”

Schechter hopes Jackson Hole will be able to be successful in preserving ecosystems, even if there is no plan to achieve it in the past 250 years. City council recently approved the creation of an Ecosystem Stewardship Administrator position, and Schechter said he would like to see whoever fills that role create metrics or a model by which the city can accurately assess. success, although he admits that it is not an easy task.

“Our situation is complicated by the fact that we are trying to do something that no one has done in 250 years. So we are special, ”he told News & Guide. “But we are not unique in the fact that we are seeing incredible problems with affordable housing, incredible problems with transportation, incredible problems of wealth inequality.

“We’re unique in that we have all of this to try to cope with, and we’re also trying to preserve and protect the region’s ecosystem. “

When asked if the city and county were ‘flying blind’ trying to navigate the ‘eco / eco dilemma’ without a master plan or a firm plan, Schechter used his own father’s experience as a metaphor . His father was a pilot in the Korean War and was bombing North Korea when a shell exploded in his face, blinding him. In and out of consciousness and blinded, his father was scoffed at and managed to land the plane.

Comparing his father’s experience of literally flying blind to the leaders of Jackson Hole preserving the ecosystem without a roadmap, Schechter said, “It is possible. Even if you do something that seems as metaphorically impossible as blind stealing, I’m here to tell you that I wouldn’t be here today if my dad hadn’t done just that.

Statewide, Teton County’s wealth derives little benefit, according to Wenlin Liu, chief economist in the Wyoming Economic Analysis Division.

The reason is that Wyoming has no income tax. Liu, who noted that Teton County was also “No. 1 for years’ of personal income per capita in a calculation by the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, mentioned other initiatives that have been considered by the Legislature over the years, some of which have been put forward by lawmakers. local. Among them is the Real Estate Transfer Tax – which was unsuccessfully advanced by State Representative Andy Schwartz in the last two legislative sessions and is now championed by Representative Mike Yin, who has led it through of the joint committee on income – and taxes on income above a certain threshold.

Schechter shared some of Liu’s points, saying the two most obvious ways to profit from wealth would be a tax on real estate transfers, due to people moving here, and an income tax.

Liu, who also acknowledged the hardship that soaring house prices in Teton County are creating for the working class and their ability to stay in the area, said he was not holding his breath on a transfer tax. real estate or on any iteration of an income tax.

“It’s probably not immediate,” Liu said. “But that seems to be the case with any tax change. It will take many years of talking back and forth for this to be successful. “

So, Schechter said, meanwhile: “We have no direct way of profiting from wealth. Wealth can take advantage of us, but we have no way of taking advantage of it. This is a one-way street.

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