Denver’s New Revenue Minefield

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

The city of Denver, like most other major metropolitan cities, is facing historic budget deficits. In the face of those fiscal challenges, city officials need to be creative about finding new sources of revenue.

While nothing has been officially decided, Denver city officials are finding out that these creative new sources of revenue can quickly become a dangerous political minefield.

Some of the ideas that have come down as ways to increase revenues are bound to raise as many hackles as they will potential revenue.

One of the ideas that is getting the most traction, and raising the biggest stink, is the proposal to begin charging Denver residents for trash pick-up.

While some critics of the idea are basing their arguments on calling it a tax, versus a fee, and thereby making it subject to TABOR, the louder complaints are coming from the projected money that would be made by the program.

Current proposals claim that if Denverites are charged $15/month for trash pick up; it will bring in as much as $26 million dollars into Denver coffers.

The problem is that current trash services only cost the city around $15 million dollars.

It seems the big problem with the idea for many Denver voters is the fact that Denver is proposing to take a free service away and not only charge enough to pay for it, but charge enough to make a tidy profit.

And while $26 million would make a big difference in the city’s budget deficit of over $100 million, it looks like the extra $11 million that is currently proposed as “profit” may not be worth the cost in political capital.

Another idea that hasn’t received has much attention, yet, is the proposal to begin charging for parking meters on Sundays. Estimates of how much money this idea would bring in were not currently available, but it won’t take a political historian to remind city officials that Denverites are very touchy about what they pay for parking.

Our current Governor, John Hickenlooper, used his proposal to make parking meters $1.00 an hour, and Sundays free, to propel his political career. Going back on that proposal will likely remind city officials why making Sundays free made Hickenlooper so popular.

Certainly, the current economic situation calls for officials to be creative and consider even controversial funding ideas. And no citizen will ever be thrilled about paying more money for anything, fee, tax or anything else.

But recent history shows that there are some funding ideas that officials will need to be very careful negotiating. If Denver’s city officials fail to heed that advice, they will hand future candidates a direct strategy to successfully replace them.

About The Blogger

– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

  • Go Og

    Want to save money? Here in my beloved state of Colorado how about quit making it a sanctuary state. How about quit paying for illegals healthcare. How about quit paying education for illegals. I am just betting you would get close to that 100 million in debt reduction if not billions.

    • Dev

      You really should do some research before you parrot. The majority of unpaid healhcare costs come from LEGAL citizens unable to pay. It is so funny how bigots always have a boogyman to point at as the cause of all their problems so they don’t have to actually productively think about anything..

    • Jan

      Agreed as someone in healthcare I can tell you that every time an illegal has a butt itch they cram into the ED? And while Americans are bankrupted by healthcare, illegals get it all for free. Need a bypass, free…..

  • Timothy Dye

    Americans are incredible. They want all the services and comforts but don’t want to pay for them. The free ride days are over. Stop your temper tantrums and support your leaders in what has to be done. Government is NOT our enemy but our servant. Live up to your responsibility as a citizen. Tim Dye

    • Matt

      It’s not that the people don’t want to pay but it’s a service that we currently pay for by property taxes. Are those taxes going to go down by the same amount? Also why collect almost twice what it costs? If the government were honest with what the money was for and didn’t waste a lot of money, the average person like myself wouldn’t mind giving more when it’s needed. The problem seems to be that once the government gets the money in the bad times they always seem to find ways to spend more when the good times are here.

    • garygoode

      Tim Dye was a former prison guard.

  • Dave

    It may start out at only $15 but as history shows, once they open this door to a revenue stream the price can and will go up.

    I also agree with the fact that we spend a large portion of our budget on meeting the needs of people who are in this country illegally. We should have a vote on this issue and I assure you the voting public do not want our resources going to take care of people that are here illegally.

  • Ex-Denver resident

    Too many people outisde of Denver, I’m sure, dump trash in those alley dumpsters, at some relatives house who lives in Denver. I say do away with those stinky dumpsters and let all those Denver residents put out thier own trash cans weekly and get charged like we all do. It’s just great revenue for Denver.

    • Ted

      I agree in part, but it won’t stop those same people from just doing a midnight dump run in any alley.

  • Jennifer Coe

    Doen’t Denver still charge people to work in Denver? That is suppose to cover the trash charge. If they start charging for trash they can no longer charge people who work in Denver and say it to cover trash.

  • garygoode

    Let me get thus correct–a new justice center, then another new justice center.

    Parking tickets everywhere

    Police writing tickets for revenue only

    Speed cameras and ticket-writing-vans that are illegal, shush, don’t let anyone that that you don’t REALLY have to pay those

    30 or 40 new prosecutors

    Trash pick-up fees that are not needed, but look good on paper

    Wow, what’s next, arresting every skate boarder and jay-walker to bring in the cash….why YES.

    Let’s declare war on debt, revenue and the citizens.

    We the employes of the city, county and state need our pensions, raises and salaries too.

    Even if there are a few thousand of us deemed “extra.”

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