Why is Denver's tax money going to Dallas?

The McNichols building at the edge of Civic Center Park, originally a Carnegie library, has been stripped down to its century-old bones. The city showed off this classy chassis last week, at a Hard Hat Gala to mark the countdown to the Biennial of the Americas, coming to Civic Center Park in July; McNichols will serve as the main stage for the event, which is devoted to the ideas and art of the Western Hemisphere. The building, which has been empty for years, served most recently as the office of the city's Treasury Division, which moved across the street to the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building, at 201 West Colfax Avenue, when that project was completed. The division is still headquartered there today, but all payments for city sales, occupational privilege, lodgers' and use taxes go to...Dallas?

There's an easy explanation for that, says Bob Gibson, director of financial management for the city. And it isn't that Denver has outsourced jobs. Or that it's paying Texans to stay away.

Turns out the city used to deposit those payments at the Denver branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. But years ago, the Denver branch quit accepting such deposits — and the next closest place to make them was the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. "For over five years, the tax payments have been processed in Texas," Gibson says. The city used a Denver post office box for the payment address and paid a courier to package the box's contents each day and drive them to Denver International Airport, where they were shipped to Dallas. There the City of Denver's bank, JP Morgan Chase, would open the envelopes, take the checks out, record the amount, then deposit the money in the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, so that the city got "same-day credit." Then, under the bank's "lock-box services," all of the payment information would be sent to Denver, where the data would be entered.

Last fall, Gibson says, when the city was looking to cut costs, the division realized it would be more efficient to simply have the checks go directly to Dallas. "In this down budgetary time, does it not make sense to have the U.S. Postal Service send it to the place where it's going to be processed?" he asks.

Well, yes — and when anyone has called his office to ask about the Dallas address on the tax-payment envelopes, they've accepted the explanation once they've heard it. After all, "none of the cash is going to Texas," Gibson notes. "It's just more efficient. And no jobs were lost as a result of changing the address...the courier certainly had other clients."

Gift-wrapped: When former U.S. Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge planned his trip to town this week to tour Denver's terrorism museum, The Cell, he packed a present for Republican Colorado State Treasurer candidate Walker Stapleton: his endorsement. "In my view, Walker Stapleton has the experience to manage Colorado's funds with the transparency and accountability that we need during these challenging economic times," Ridge said in a statement last week.

It was a nice gift, probably nicer than whatever Ridge gave Stapleton and his bride when he attended their wedding on the Bush family compound in Maine in 2006. Stapleton is a second cousin of George W. Bush.

Hope Ridge gets a thank-you note.

Scene and herd: And speaking of terrorism, Leadville's own Jihad Jamie wanted to kill for it; the Colorado creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, had an episode altered because of it; and now local libertarian Ari Armstrong is getting behind the idea of drawing Mohammed. The Everybody Draw Mohammed campaign urges Americans to defend their right to free speech by drawing pictures of the Muslim prophet and publishing them on May 20.

Sounds like an idea we'd like to frame.

 
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