Denver to vote on gross sales tax for providers to assist folks experiencing homelessness


Denverites will vote in November whether or not to impose a 0.25% gross sales tax within the metropolis to fund providers and different facilities for folks experiencing homelessness, Denver Metropolis Council determined Monday.
The council unanimously accepted the poll measure proposed by Councilwoman Robin Kniech.
Kniech acknowledged {that a} gross sales tax is an imperfect software to fight the town’s issues, nevertheless it’s one that would assist increase Denver’s method to homelessness, she stated.
“We’ve an opportunity to make a distinction,” Kniech stated.
A number of council members voiced considerations that the tax would hit low-income residents tougher, however additionally they acknowledged the necessity for extra funding for the problem.
The transfer comes with the blessing of Mayor Michael Hancock, who introduced his help for the proposal and the creation of city-sanctioned homeless encampments in July. Whereas the measure is now cemented on the town’s November poll, officers have but to discover a web site for the town’s first sanctioned encampment.
If voters approve the measure, the tax will cost clients an additional 2.5 cents for each $10 spent and lift an estimated $40 million a 12 months.
Whereas the concept of passing a brand new tax throughout a recession may hassle some voters, Kniech stated the financial downturn and the pandemic have underscored the necessity to take motion now. Had been it not for the recession, the proposed tax improve might need been larger, she stated.
“Might we use twice as a lot cash? Yeah, certain,” Kniech stated.
However cash alone can’t resolve Denver’s homelessness downside, she stated. The group should additionally purchase in to new approaches, reminiscent of constructing extra housing choices and shelter areas, and welcome them into totally different neighborhoods.
Cash from the tax may solely be spent on issues reminiscent of housing, shelters, catalytic initiatives and applications and providers for the unsheltered, Kniech stated. That’s a broad framework which might give metropolis officers some flexibility with how the cash might be spent.
Extra particulars on that framework can be developed earlier than the cash would start to stream on the finish of January 2021, if the tax passes, Kniech stated. The thought for the town to spend money on “confirmed options” and “scale them up,” she stated.
These forms of options embrace increasing entry — and capability — to 24-hour shelters, extra individualized help for folks experiencing homelessness and case administration, stated Laura Brudzynski, deputy director of Denver’s Division of Housing Stability.
They might even be meant to make shelters a extra engaging choice for these residing on the streets and to “increase pathways out the again door and into housing stability,” Kniech stated.
The Division of Housing Stability would offer annual studies on how the cash is being spent and whether or not the investments are working, Brudzynski stated. Plus there can be extra studies each different month to an advisory board, which may suggest modifications or extra investments.
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To date the measure hasn’t sparked any organized opposition. However members of the conservative Independence Institute do imagine it’s the fallacious method, stated Ben Murrey, director of the institute’s Fiscal Coverage Heart.
“Placing apart the query of whether or not Denver wants extra funding for homelessness applications, it’s slightly gorgeous that Denver Democrats plan to lift new revenues by making an already regressive Denver tax much more regressive,” Murrey stated in an announcement. “It’s no secret that a rise within the native gross sales taxes hits low-income folks hardest.”
Kniech’s proposal is now the second proposed tax improve on the town’s November poll. The opposite is one other 0.25% gross sales tax improve which must be spent creating jobs within the areas of renewable and clear power expertise and administration of pure sources, amongst different issues. That proposal would exclude meals, water, gasoline and medical provides from the rise and would increase an estimated $36 million in its first 12 months.


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