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.


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