AURORA | A ballot question that would have asked Aurora voters to increase the sales tax by .25% to improve mental health services across the city is being put off again, this time because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The effort, dubbed Caring4Aurora, took after a model passed by voters in Denver, which increased the sales tax there for mental health services.

“Mental health services are more important now than ever,” said Debbie Stafford, who was leading the petition effort. “People in our community are under enormous strain and mental health resources are critical to protect both children and adults and to save lives. However, the impacts of COVID-19 on all of our residents through job loss, health and business impacts, financial strain and uncertainty, along with concerns of in-person signature gathering during the Safer-At-Home Orders all have factored into this very disappointing decision.  We will reconsider moving Caring4Aurora forward in 2021 in hopes that the economy has stabilized.”

Stakeholders hoped the Aurora City Council would back the tax increase last summer, but local lawmakers suggested the question go on the November 2020 ballot instead to allow more time for campaigning. 

Polling done by Keating Research last year found that public support for the ballot initiative was high. Of 400 likely voters in Aurora polled, 72 percent said they’d voted yes on a 0.25 percent sales tax. The tax would add 25 cents tax on each $100 in taxable purchases in the city.

The poll also showed that there was majority support among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters in all wards of the city, according Chris Keating, who presented the poll findings to city council members in July.

In Denver, the similar ballot measure passed with 70 percent of the vote in 2018. Like the Aurora proposal, it also increased the sales tax by 0.25 percent, raising approximately $45 million each year for mental health services, suicide prevention and substance abuse programs.

— KARA MASON, Staff Reporter