Mayor Michael Hancock submitted his 2022 budget proposal to City Council on Wednesday, comprised of $1.49 billion to be spent primarily on infrastructure, employment, housing and safety projects.
The $1.49 billion budget is a 12% increase from the city’s budget in 2021, and a return to the $1.49 billion projected budget for 2020. Due to economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020’s revenue only reached $1.2 billion and 2021 is projected to hit $1.3 billion.
“Working together with our community, the city and county of Denver is emerging from the worst public health and economic crisis in our lifetime,” Hancock said. “Denver has proven we are a resilient and very vibrant city.”
Chief Financial Officer Brendan Hanlon said Denver is returning to 2020 levels of spending thanks to federal financial support and recovery in the city’s revenue streams.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging on, Hanlon said Denver’s sales and use tax and consumer spending are on the rise, and unemployment is down. However, the recovery of industries like tourism and hospitality are fragile, especially with the recent spread of the delta variant of COVID-19.
In addition to the $1.49 billion, Denver will receive funds in 2022 from its $308 million share of the American Rescue Plan Act and additional federal funding expected from President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure plan. If approved by voters in November, the city will also receive a $450 million bond for Hancock’s infrastructure package.
“These sources combined together will really help galvanize our recovery,” Hanlon said. “This is really a once-in-a-lifetime type of investment”
Hancock’s 2022 budget proposal will need approval from the City Council before it can be implemented. Over the next two weeks, the council will meet with Hancock and Hanlon for a series of budget hearings leading up to the vote.
Over $200 million of the proposed 2022 budget is designated for capital infrastructure projects. This includes $85 million for transportation and mobility projects, $46 million for parks and recreation projects and $42 million for improvements to city facilities.
Some of the largest investments in each category are as follows:
- Transportation and mobility: $6.9 million for the city’s bike network, $4.8 million for sidewalks, $5.7 million for transit and $3.5 million to improve transportation and mobility safety.
- Parks and recreation: $3.5 million for the Civilian Conservation Corps camp restoration at Red Rocks, $2 million for downtown tree canopy, $2 million for Barnum Recreation Center improvements, $2 million to restore the South Platte River and trail, $1.3 million for parks planning and $200,000 for park restrooms.
- City facilities: $10 million for the Central Branch Library modernization project, $3.4 million for Arts and Venues projects and $6 million to improve accessibility to city facilities.
The infrastructure funding also includes $1.4 million to establish an Investment Impact Fund. This fund, a first for Denver, would aim to provide housing and supportive programs in neighborhoods where the city is building capital projects, with the goal of preventing displacement and disruption.
All of these projects would add to Hancock’s proposed $450 million bond to fund 80 infrastructure projects throughout the city. That bond has been broken up into five ballot measures and is awaiting voter approval in November.
"We’re investing in our infrastructure because it’s the right thing to do,” Hanlon said. “We need to make sure that we’re maintaining and building out assets for a growing city, and we also need to do it in a fashion that provides jobs.”
To promote job creation, the 2022 budget includes $4.5 million for the establishment of a climate action workforce, $2 million to expand the Denver Construction Careers program, $286,000 to expand the CareerWise Youth Apprenticeship program and $500,000 to envision a potential regional Aerotropolis.
Using the Climate Protection Fund, $11.5 million would also be distributed to provide solar car ports and solar panels for low-income households and $3.7 million would provide electric vehicles and electric bikes for essential workers and low-income communities.
The budget also directs $5.7 million in marijuana tax revenue to establish a business development program to improve funding access to small, minority-owned and women-owned businesses, including those attempting to enter the marijuana industry.
This funding does not include the $17 million Denver Economic Development and Opportunity is planning to deploy for various community training, apprenticeships and job placement programs.
The city also plans to distribute another $10 million from the American Rescue Plan Act for small business grants, downtown reactivation and to support entrepreneurship in low-income neighborhoods. That funding plan will be presented to the City Council for approval in the coming months.
The $1.49 billion budget also provides $190 million for affordable housing, housing stability and homelessness support. The projects include hotel and motel rooms, tiny home villages, safe outdoors spaces, safe parking spaces, housing vouchers, eviction protection and rental and down-payment assistance.
Specific funding designations are as follows:
- $31.9 million invested into Denver’s Affordable Housing Fund.
- $28.5 million to support people experiencing an episode of homelessness.
- $15 million invested into Denver’s Homelessness Resolution Fund.
- $8 million for improved shelter services at the 48th Avenue campus.
- $3 million to transition and maintain 245 supportive housing units.
- $2.8 million for the city’s homeless intervention team of outreach workers.
- $2.5 million for the acquisition and development of housing and shelters.
- $1.7 million to create a new affordable housing development team.
- $1 million for motel vouchers for people leaving jail and people sleeping outside.
- $900,000 to be paired with federal funds to house 125 people through the Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond program.
- $738,000 to create a shelter facilities support team to provide 24/7 shelter maintenance.
- $200,000 for public health investigators.
The city estimates these projects will, in part, create or preserve 900 affordable homes next year, lift thousands of people out of homelessness over the next two years, create an additional 180 units of supportive housing and help 585 households regain stable housing.
In addition, $39 million from the proposed $450 million bond package and over $20 million from the American Rescue Plan Act would be put toward housing and homeless support, pending voter and City Council approval.
Tthe 2022 budget would designate $13.6 million to hiring new first responders in the Denver Police Department, Denver Fire Department, Denver Sheriff’s Office and Denver 911 to help address the city’s rising crime rates.
The budget also provides $1.4 million for two non-uniform street enforcement teams, $1.5 million for patrols of downtown parks and $2.8 million to invest in Hancock’s new collaborative crime-prevention initiative, which brings more patrols and resources to “hot spot” areas in the city with the highest rates of violent crime.
“Keeping our residents, visitors and neighborhoods safe is one of our highest priorities,” Hancock said. “Exacerbated by COVID-19, rising crime rates are taking place globally and certainly in every city in America.”
In addition, the budget also focuses on Denver’s ongoing criminal justice reform efforts:
- $1 million to expand the STAR program, sending paramedics and mental health professionals to respond to low-level emergency calls.
- $1 million for a crisis response team to provide emergency mental health support in Denver jails.
- $947,000 to create an Assessment Intake Diversion Center to guide individuals with mental health or substance addictions away from jail and connected to appropriate services.
- $777,000 to increase body-worn cameras inside Denver jails.
- $769,000 in additional services for the Tooley Hall re-entry program.
- $665,000 to expand youth violence prevention programs, events and grants.
- $351,000 to add a medical unit to serve the Federal Boulevard corridor and east of the Central Business District.
To prepare for future emergencies, Hancock also plans to begin restoring Denver’s budget reserves used during the pandemic. The safety net reserves are intended to remain above 15% but hit 12.4% by the end of 2020, Hanlon said. Hancock plans to reach 14.2% by the end of 2022.