Voters to decide on higher taxes

Denver voters will face a ballot full of tax increases this year, and the list just got longer.

Beyond the big-ticket state elections and spending plans, voters in the city also will decide on numerous tax increases and a major change to the city’s elections.

And, most recently, a regional board has asked voters to approve higher property taxes to fund flood-control projects in Denver and surrounding counties.

Here’s what’s on the ballot.

Property taxes for flood control

The Urban Drainage and Flood Control District wants to raise its property tax rates across its jurisdiction, which includes parts of Denver and six surrounding counties.

The district coordinates with governments on flood mapping and flood-control projects along waterways. The proposal would return flood-related tax rates to previous levels. The UDFCD board decided last month to ask voters to restore taxing authority that has been reduced by 44 percent since 1992 under restrictions in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Approval would result in an initial increase in the current mill levy — which is 56 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — by 27 cents, raising $14.9 million for projects next year. That increase translates into a cost of $7.88 for the owner of a $400,000 home. Eventually, the ballot measure would allow the district’s board to raise the mill levy rate up to a maximum $1 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The district includes Denver and parts of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Douglas and Jefferson counties.

Higher sales taxes in Denver

Several other measures would raise Denver’s sales tax for various causes. If all four local tax measures are approved, it would boost city spending by $116 million for 2019, an increase of about 5 percent compared to the current year’s $2 billion budget.

College scholarships: The Denver College Affordability Fund would charge an extra 0.08 percent on purchases, or about 8 cents per $100 that you spend on goods and services in Denver. That would raise about $14 million or more per year.

The fund would provide scholarships for young Denver residents to attend accredited nonprofit or public schools. The money would be managed by nonprofits, with priority given to students with financial need.

Money for parks: Another measure would increase taxes to pay for parks. Backed by Council President Jolon Clark, it would increase the cost of goods and services by 0.25 percent, or 25 cents per $100. That would provide more than $45 million per year for parks construction and maintenance in the first year.

Mental health and housing: A third tax proposal, Caring 4 Denver, would increase the sales tax by 0.25 percentage points to raise $45 million per year for mental health services and housing, including suicide prevention, substance abuse treatment and specialized housing.

Food and education: The Healthy Food for Denver’s Kids initiative will ask voters to raise the sales tax by 0.08 percent to provide food and education about food to young people in need. Denver Elections hadn’t announced the official certification of the measure as of press time, but the campaign said on Tuesday that it had “made the ballot.”

Public money for elections: A group of reformers wants to provide public money for election campaigns in Denver through the Democracy for the People Initiative. It would create a fund of public money that would be available for political candidates. The candidates would have to obey special rules — including limits on fundraising — in order to collect the money.

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