The University of Colorado has withdrawn its request for an exemption from Boulder's new sugary drink tax, saying it severely miscalculated the amount of money the measure will cost the school.

After originally stating the tax would set CU back $1 million in its first year, university financial staff double-checked that estimate and concluded the figure would actually be closer to $200,000.

"We sincerely apologize for the confusion around this issue and the work that it caused for you and others," Vice Chancellor Frances Draper wrote this week in a letter to the City Council and City Manager Jane Brautigam. "Our dining procurement team recently found an error in their calculations and brought that forward."

City legal staff intends to grant the request and remove CU's exemption, assuming the City Council agrees to that.

CU had approached the City Council on May 16 to plead for a last-minute, temporary exemption from the voter-approved tax, a 2-cents-per-ounce levy on distributors of most drinks with at 5 least grams of added sugar per 12 fluid ounces, set to go into effect July 1.

The university was under the impression, until a few weeks ago, that as a state entity it would not be subject to the city tax. Paul Houle, director of campus dining services, asked the council in May for an exemption through June 30, 2019.


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Mayor Suzanne Jones said at the time that she was "baffled" that CU only recently found out the tax would be effective on campus — but the council voted 8-1, anyway, to grant an exemption, albeit one that expired after one year instead of two, as the school requested.

Draper said Friday that CU is already pulling sugary drinks from its campus dining services and replacing them with alternatives that are healthier and will not be taxed.

The school has removed all products from the craft soda branded Stubborn Soda and is working with its juice manufacturer to buy only 100-percent juice drinks. Water infused with fruits, herbs and vegetables is now available as CU also has added "spa water" stations at all dining facilities, and organic tea and yerba mate are also now in stock.

The announcement that CU will no longer be exempt from the tax comes as welcomes news to the citizens and organizations that campaigned for the measure last year and implored the city to "rescind this tax break now" following the approval of the now-moot exemption request.

Alex Burness: 303-473-1389, burnessa@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/alex_burness