Boulder: Council Postpones Head Tax Ballot Issue

The Boulder City Council decided it was too late to put an occupational privilege (employee tax) on the November ballot. Mayor Matt Appelbaum instigated the proposal. The tax, at a rate of somewhere between $2 and $5 per month, would have been imposed on all employees in the city, though exemptions would have been made for those below certain income levels. The tax was intended to mitigate the effects of Boulder being a regional job center, particularly on transportation infrastructure and other city services. Employers, except non-profits and governments, would also have had to pay the tax for each person they employ in the city.

The business community, led by the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, had argued that job growth in Boulder had benefitted the city by increasing tax revenue and providing jobs for local residents. They argued the tax could jeopardize some of those benefits and make Boulder businesses less competitive, particularly in light of other policy decisions the city has made in recent months regarding building height limits, affordable housing linkage fees on commercial development, and recycling requirements for businesses.

As it is, voters will probably consider as many as seven other ballot measures, including an extension of the occupation utility tax, an extension of the Climate Action Plan tax, a request for pay raises for the City Council, a short-term rental tax and two citizen initiated questions.

The first citizen initiated measure would allow neighborhoods to vote on land-use regulation changes if, within 60 days of a land-use regulation change being approved, 10 percent of the registered voters in a neighborhood signed a petition to hold such a vote. The second would require the City to adopt standards for all levels of service and prohibit the City from giving approval to new development that does not pay for or otherwise provide for additional facilities and services to offset increased demand.

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