Denver Voter's Guide

Next month, Denverites will decide on several tax-raising initiatives

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Several of Denver’s ballot issues this year deal with tax increases. This guide will cover issues specifically on the Denver ballot. For more information on state ballot issues, as well as the race for governor and other state offices, visit coloradocommunitymedia.com.

The city of Denver has set its election for council and municipal positions in May. The city has a list of candidates that has announced their campaigns here: https://bit.ly/2OJMdM5. The April issue of Life on Capitol Hill will have interviews with council candidates in our coverage area.

On Oct. 13, the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation will host a ballot discussion at 9:15 a.m. at Denver District 3 Police Station, 1625 S. University Blvd.

Here are some important dates to remember this election season:

Oct. 15

The county begins mailing ballots to active voters.

Drop boxes open in Denver. To find out their locations, go to https://bit.ly/2Q2oSpj.

Nov. 6

Election Day, ballots must be received by 7 p.m.

Vote centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Denver.

To find out the location of your vote center, go to https://bit.ly/2Q2oSpj.

Ballot proposals that include tax increases

The sales tax rate in the city and county of Denver is 3.65 percent. Approval of all these ballot measures would raise the sales tax by 0.66 percent, making the total sales tax 4.31 percent. That means Denver residents would pay $4.31 per $100 spent on goods. This does not include state taxes. 

City officials say the initiatives would generate an additional $115 million in tax revenue annually.

Caring 4 Denver

This ballot initiative would raise taxes in the city and county of Denver by 0.25 percent, or 25 cents per $100, to raise $45 million for mental health services. A nonprofit board would be created by the mayor, Denver district attorney and city council president to distribute the funds.

The initiative that 10 percent of the funds will go back to the city to help pay for training for city officials and first responders on how to handle people with mental health needs and a co-responder program that allows mental health experts to ride along with Denver Police. The 10 percent will also go toward funding for alternatives to jail for those with mental health or substance abuse needs. For the first two years of the sales tax, an additional 10 percent will also go toward the city for these needs.

Supporting Our Park System

City council president Jolon Clark proposed adding a measure that would increase sales tax by .25 percent, or 25 cents per $100, to raise $45 million for parks maintenance.

The funds would go toward the $127 million the city Parks and Recreation Department has in deferred maintenance projects around Denver.

Denver College Affordability Fund

This initiative would increase taxes by .08 percent, or 8 cents per $100, to raise nearly $14 million for scholarships in Denver. The scholarships will be awarded to Denver residents with financial need that will be attending an accredited Colorado institution.

The tax would expire on Dec. 31, 2030. A nonprofit board would be created to give out the scholarships.

Healthy Food for Denver Kids

The initiative would raise taxes by .08 percent, the equivalent of 8 cents per $100, to raise $11.2 million annually.

The funds will go toward healthy food programming and food-based education services with a focus on at-risk and low-income youth. The Denver Food Commission will be set up to distribute the funds. The initiative would expire on Dec. 31, 2029.

Other ballot issues:

Democracy for the People

This ballot measure lowers the amounts that an individual can donate to a campaign. The scale varies depending on what position the donation goes to — $1,000 to a candidate running for mayor, $700 to a candidate running as an at-large councilmember and $400 for candidates running for a district council position are some examples.

The initiative would also set aside funds for candidates who agree to specific fundraising terms, calling it the “Fair Elections Fund.” The city could match $9 for every $1 donated by a citizen up to $50. If a citizen donated $5, the city would match $45, for example.

The city fund would total $2 million per election year. Candidates for mayor can collect up to $750,000 from the fund. Candidates running for councilmember-at-large, clerk and recorder or auditor can collect up to $250,000. District councilmembers can collect up to $125,000.

The measure would also decide if corporations can no longer donate to campaigns.

Ballot initiative changes

The city council has added a measure that would change the rules on how to add items to the ballot. Currently, petitioners must submit a draft of their proposed ordinance to city council before going through a review process. Once reviewed, petitioners submit ballot materials to Denver Elections Division, which has three days to accept or reject the proposal.

If accepted, the petitioners can then seek more signatures. The number of signatures needed to get on the ballot is equal to 5 percent of the total votes cast for mayor in the most recent election. In the 2015 mayoral election, 94,525 people voted, according to Ballotpedia, meaning petitioners need 4,726 signatures.

The new initiative would change the requirement to 2 percent of active registered voters in Denver County at the start of each odd-numbered year. In 2017, there were 399,353 active registered voters in Denver County, according to data from the Secretary of State, meaning petitioners need 7,987 signatures.

In either case, the number would change as 2019 is both a mayoral election year and an odd-numbered year.

The council has also proposed a measure making the director of elections a city employee instead of an appointee of the clerk and recorder as a question on the ballot.

Denver, Ballot, vote

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