City lawmakers rebuff plan to repeal Aurora’s $2 worker tax 

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Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky, top row, second from the right, argues during an Oct. 17, 2022 city council study session for her plan to end Aurora’s $2 employee head tax. SENTINEL SCREEN GRAB

AURORA | Lawmakers hesitated Monday when presented with a proposal to cut Aurora’s occupational privilege tax, questioning again how the city would make up for the resulting $5.9 million hole in revenue.

After the City Council decided Oct. 8 to put off repealing the tax for at least a year, the group indicated Monday that it was not comfortable committing to a full repeal by Jan. 1, 2024.

Aurora’s occupational privilege tax is split between employees who work in Aurora and their employers, with employees paying $2 per month and employers paying $2 per month, per employee. The tax, introduced in 1986, is meant to offset the cost of city services provided to those who work in Aurora but may not pay other forms of tax.

The city is projected to collect about $5.9 million annually from the tax — an amount that city staffers have said is greater than the individual budgets of four different city departments. 

Bill sponsor Councilmember Danielle Jurinsky could not explain last weekend how the city would compensate for the budget cut that would result from repealing the tax. On Oct. 8, a majority of council members at first tentatively endorsed the cut, but they then backed off the notion when at the end of their budget workshop they found themselves approximately $5.1 million from closing the gap, with no clear plan for making up the difference.

Jurinsky suggested Monday that the city could entice new businesses by advertising the repeal of the tax, offsetting the cut with sales tax revenue.

“The path forward here is attracting businesses,” Jurinsky said Monday. “This is what Aurora is doing. Aurora is leading the way.”

Jurinsky said the amount of the cut could be made up if the city attracted “a couple” of “fancy steakhouses.” Taxed at the city’s current rate of 3.75%, it would take about $157.4 million in new sales to make up for the cut. The city has a deficit of at least $8.3 million that it will need to balance in its 2024 budget, according to budget manager Greg Hays.

Jurinsky clashed with city staffers who warned the council that implementing the cut would make the city’s revenue base less diverse and could jeopardize the city’s credit rating if the council tried to make up the difference using one-time funds.

“We would need ongoing cuts, it may affect our credit ratings, we would be a fiscal outlier compared to other area cities, and … the fiscal benefits to individual taxpayers is relatively small,” Hays said.

Jurinsky and other council conservatives said it wasn’t fair that she wasn’t informed about the details of the staff presentation ahead of time. She told Hays and manager of tax Jeffrey Edwards that they were “defending a bad tax” before Hays delivered a presentation on the fiscal impacts of the cut.

“I’m going to argue (with) you. I’m not going to listen to you. … Shame on both of you. Shame on city staff,” she said, and accused City Manager Jim Twombly of “setting (her) up” with the presentation.

Twombly said it was the job of staffers to “provide council with information so they make fully-informed decisions,” and Hays said the presentation was meant to address questions raised during the Oct. 8 workshop.

While Mayor Mike Coffman and council members Francoise Bergan and Dustin Zvonek questioned why the item’s sponsor wasn’t told ahead of time about the details of the presentation, which Zvonek called “one-sided,” other council members admonished Jurinsky for her treatment of city staffers.

“If you’re feeling personally attacked by them pointing out inconvenient truths, maybe analyze your policy,” Councilmember Juan Marcano said. “Aurora is an exceptionally lean and well-run city. What you’re doing with this proposal is jeopardizing our credit rating, our ability to provide services to our residents and God knows what else.”

When Coffman asked Jurinsky whether she would be open to repealing the occupational privilege tax in phases, with staff determining financial triggers for each phase of the repeal, Jurinsky said she was not.

She also reiterated a complaint from the budget workshop — that the city is heavy-handed with business owners in its collection of the tax.

“Businesses are treated horribly,” she said.

The mayor said that, regardless of the bill’s failure, he wanted to consult with staff about a phased approach to getting rid of the tax.

Ultimately, only Bergan, Jurinsky, Zvonek and Councilmember Steve Sundberg said they supported the proposed repeal moving forward from the study session, meaning Jurinsky did not have the support of a majority of council members to bring the item to a full meeting, though she could still choose to do so.

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Susan
Susan
1 month ago

Yet another example of an unqualified and uninformed council member attempting to do something not in the best interest of our city or its citizens. Thank goodness this did not pass.  Do your homework Jurinksy! Represent us not yourself

FactsOverFeelings
FactsOverFeelings
1 month ago

“I’m going to argue (with) you. I’m not going to listen to you.” For the last six years this has become the GOP’s motto when presented with any kind of factual information.

Dean68
Dean68
1 month ago

 This is great “pointing out inconvenient truths,” Ok let’s talk about these inconvenient truths and since we’re speaking about tax money CM Juan A. Marcano. CM Marcano trying very hard last night and his “I don’t want to hear it “ from other council to about the fairness of the OTC tax.   This bozo a real pillar of political integrity arguing that the city continues with our fair share OTC taxes, he preaches this is such a social issue. With such contrivance of self- righteousness for securing and keeping a city OTC tax. CM Marcano, why don’t you pay your own employee taxes? You were a defendant sued by the Colo Dept of Rev for non-payment of employment taxes.  CM Marcano, a corporation partner, Precision Architecture LLC. You and your two partners from Houston Texas did   business in Colorado, sound familiar? You were the Colorado registered agent and named as defendant or failure to pay your fair share of corporation taxes. I guess back in 2019 you didn’t believe then it was the right thing, and plain silly for anyone to pay taxes. Back then who cares about paying taxes?   You were sued by the Colo Dept of Revenue in Denver District court (# 11CV-8412460) in 2011.  A distraint warrant judgement, still shows this debt unsatisfied for $422 listing the Colo Dept of Revenue as creditor. Oh yea, but that’s just the rest of us taxpayers, you owe. You think you are ever going to pay this troublesome taxpayer debt; I’m betting it’s too inconvenient?      

Roberta Johnson
Roberta Johnson
1 month ago

Council Member Jurinsky should immediately step down as a council member. She’s completely lost her mind! She’s rude, nasty, obnoxious and has the manners of a child who throws a temper tantrum for not getting a piece of candy. City workers and I’m sure all staff work their tails off to keep running our city on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. She thinks the solution to this occupational privilege tax is to bring in a few nice steak restaurants? I believe her screws have come loose yet again.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

“I’m not going to listen to you.” — Danielle Jurinsky
Spoken like a true conservative and the impetuous juvenile that she is. We should elect her to Congress. She’d be a great adjunct to MTG and LB.

Melissa
Melissa
1 month ago

No wonder Aurora has difficulties attracting qualified employees with people like Twombly and Jurinsky throwing them under the bus.

Richard J. Schneider
1 month ago

That there was a flare up at the council meeting is surprising. I wonder about two things: is the proposed repeal of this very pragmatic tax simply a typical anti-tax (let’s cut any tax whether it’s needed or not) move or an honest effort at government efficiency AND have the repealers actually surveyed the companies with facilities in Aurora to see whether they even care? Aurora has many high-end employers that draw employees from the entire region. These commuting employees impact the city’s infrastructure simply by pounding in and out of town each day with their carriages. The head tax is a pragmatic way to capture revenue to cover REAL infrastructure costs. A few bucks a month from employees and employers is not too much to ask. It was funny to see a few councilmembers complain that they were blind-sided when city staff simply reported to them the fiscal impact of the tax repeal. That’s their job. The foolishness of many politicians never ceases to amaze me.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard J. Schneider
sugar
sugar
1 month ago

At the study session last night, citizens learned of the cuts that would have to be made to the budget to
support Jurinsky’s poorly thought out resolution.
I was surprised that Mayor Pro Tem Bergen voted
to send this resolution forward. Losing almost
six million dollars in Aurora’s budget isn’t something to take lightly!

Michael L Moore
Michael L Moore
1 month ago

Why does Ms. Jurinski keep the drama going? Why bark at city staffers and the city manager when they are just providing information for the council, so they make informed decisions? Why is it always a confrontation? Simply deciding that getting rid of the tax is not feasible after hearing the information should not elicit snide remarks! Just make the decision and move forward. Aurora deserves better from her!

Carol
Carol
1 month ago

Danielle Jurinsky is an unmitigated disaster. We had two (perhaps three, depending on one’s perspective) highly capable and qualified people on the ballot last year who would have been so much better in temperament and were certainly more qualified. Depressing to think where this council could have been now after a year.

Publius
Publius
1 month ago

If the OPT is a burden for small employers, and I suspect it is more of an administrative annoyance than a financial burden, provide releief to those businesses who employ less than 75 persons but leave the tax generally in place.

As for our city council, I would hope they could debate matters showing a modicum of maturity and decorum. Had they done so they may have come to the compromise I suggested above. Instead we have one councilperson berating staff and another negatively characterizing the first councilperson and her proposals.

Sadly the divisions on council are a microcasm of our divisions as a society. We rarely ascribe to the other perspective the grace of presuming honorable motives. Maybe a true leader will emerge, or maybe a crisis will emerge which will have us casting aside our tribalism, but for now, I expect more of the same. I hope my expectations are only my personal pessimism.

Bob
Bob
1 month ago

The city Aurora staff reports a potential loss to the city till of five mill $, if the ordinance for the privilege tax goes through. Perhaps that is accurate, we have to accept a good faith effort and the staff is straight on without their own agenda.  On the other side of this  tax cost to employees, and employers. In most cases the tax also has a record of what’s been paid as a cost/overhead. In turn this is deductible from your income tax provided you produce a IRS 1040 –  W2 for taxes withheld. Is or has the city been providing these W2 for what they have collected? If not, why not? This seems only fair deduction  to the payer of this tax.        

mack
mack
1 month ago

+jurinsky has made a butt of herself from day one!!!!