By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – Some Denver voters will soon be asked how they would feel about paying increased sales taxes, property taxes and other taxes to raise $50 million to $55 million a year to support Denver’s homeless population. The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless said Tuesday they are hiring a pollster to begin the process of getting a tax increase on the November 2020 ballot.

homeless sweep

(credit: CBS)

“We really want to explore as many options as possible so voters can tell us whats the most palatable to them,” said Cathy Alderman, Vice President of Communications and Public Policy for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

She said the agency plans to have a polling firm in place in February to begin surveying Denver voters about a potential tax increase.

Cathy Alderman (credit: CBS)

“I don’t think anyone could go outside and walk around and think we are spending enough in that area” she said.

Voters will be asked how they feel about each of the following:

  • A potential sales tax increase of ¼ of 1% or an extra .25 cents for every $100 spent
  • At least doubling Denver’s Occupational Privilege Tax also known as the head tax. Currently employers pay $4 per month for each employee and the workers themselves are liable for a fee of $5.75 per month.
  • Increasing Denver property taxes
  • Reallocating or increasing marijuana taxes to support the homeless

Estimates are that the city of Denver currently spends about $50 million per year on homeless services and other charities, and nonprofits contribute another $90 million, according to a 2019 report. Alderman says that’s not enough to help out the more than 5,300 people in metro Denver who are homeless.

She says on an annual basis, at least another $55 million is needed for programs and services, expanding shelter operations, housing subsidies and rental assistance.

(credit: CBS)

Following the February polling, Alderman said she hopes Denver City Council will work on a ballot issue in April and May. She said if council balks at a proposed tax hike, the coalition itself will likely try to get enough signatures to put a tax increase on the November 2020 ballot.

“I don’t think the money we’re spending isn’t working,” said Alderman. “It just hasn’t kept up with the pace of growth.”

She said if the proposed tax increase is approved, spending of the money would be left up to the city’s Department of Housing Stability.

Derek Friedman, who owns several downtown retail stores, said business owners are essentially already paying the equivalent of a higher tax to deal with homelessness in the form of fewer people shopping and decreased revenues because shoppers don’t feel safe, increased security costs and difficulty recruiting and retaining workers who don’t always feel safe downtown.

He said he is not opposed to an increased sales tax to alleviate the problems.

(credit: CBS)

”As long as there is firm and clear accountability and very firm goals. And if the goals aren’t achieved, the tax goes away.”

Friedman said he believed increasing the head tax didn’t make sense since the minimum wage in Denver was just increased, and increasing the head tax would be a financial hardship for the very employees who just saw their wages go up.

Alderman said there have been ongoing, informal discussions with some Denver city council members about a tax increase. She said she believed this was an appropriate time to ask voters to increase taxes to support the homeless although she said, ”I anticipate some push back and lively debates and discussion. But we think it’s time to come together as a community and do better.”

Brian Maass

Comments (10)
  1. latchkeykid says:

    For $2 million, you could bus all of them to the homeless utopia called San Fransisco and have a over a million left over. (Greyhound 1 way Denver to S. F. $170*5300=901000) Liberalism is a cancer that needs cut out.

  2. More taxes when jobs were never easier to find? Let’s take care of the mentally ill through healthcare & get the able bodied back to work. Drug tests for government checks. Instead of trashing our parks and getting free housing & food, let’s do a work program where people can lift themselves up by their own bootstraps making this city a better place. It worked, before it was politically incorrect.

  3. Kirk Carroll says:

    As if those of us living here who aren’t mindless democrat voting Zombies didn’t know this was coming next! This is the play book that is rolled out on the everyday workers in every single Democrat infested city in this country. If the Democrats would stop stealing the tax dollars from the taxpayers more taxes wouldn’t even be necessary.

  4. John McAlexander says:

    Here is the bottom line – Colorado cities have now become California to the east – the working people are now going to get the TAX SHAFT – democrats come up with a money laundering operation where those who pay taxes – then democrats get their hands on the cash and nothing is changed – except the tax will never go away and those it was intended for gets a bag lunch. Colorado working people gets to pick up the bill – all the while democrats are lining their pockets. Make sure you know their names because they will all be democrats.

  5. Not Chicken Little says:

    Why don’t you tax the homeless instead, if you want fewer of them?

    The economic rule that holds true no matter what your politics are or what you believe: If you subsidize something, you get more of it. If you tax something, you get less of it. So Denver is setting itself up to get even more homeless…

  6. lthacker28shackman28 says:

    Wait a second…Alderman says that the $50 million the city puts in and another $90 million from charities isn’t enough. That works out to be over $26,000 per homeless person! She wants another $50 million to bring the total per homeless person to almost $36k per homeless person. Sounds about right for a left wing nut job like Alderman.I’m glad I don’t live in Denver and have my tax dollars go down this rat hole.

  7. Ron says:

    so, $50 million plus $90 million=$160,000,000, divided by 5300 homeless people is $30,188 each.
    Why do you need more money?

    1. Gary Arpon says:

      Because the money is actually used to pay $10,000 bonuses to the 15,000 Denver bureaucrats who administer the funds.

  8. Joe Bloe says:

    Denver….the new liberal dump.

  9. The umpteen millions of $$$ spent annually since Mayor Hickenlooper’s day have failed, so now the clueless do-gooders want another $10K per each bum every year in Denver ($50M divided by 5,000 homeless people).

    More Homeless People = More Money, and the homeless shelter / services industry has no intention of putting itself out of business.

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