Denver Mayor Michael Hancock will reveal Tuesday his proposed budget for 2021, a year in which he will need to close a budget gap of about $190 million — on top of the $220 million cut from this year’s budget — due to the pandemic-induced recession.
His plan will require the approval of the Denver City Council, a 13-member body with a handful of new members often known to challenge decisions handed down by the executive branch.
Hancock's office says the 2021 proposal "carefully manages the uncertainty of continuing public health and economic conditions with the obligation to serve the community and keep the city on a path toward rebuilding our local economy in a way that is sustainable and equitable."
The mayor will present his proposal during a virtual press conference at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday from the City and County Building. Joining Hancock will be the city’s chief financial officer, Brendan Hanlon, and budget director Stephanie Adams.
As the coronavirus pandemic unequivocally shapes next year's budget, many protesters are hoping that recent cries to defund the police will be reflected in the document as well.
Council President Stacie Gilmore, who was elected to lead the council in late July, said she sees “real direction” from racial justice protests that have called for investing in neighborhoods and divesting from police.
She highlighted Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response pilot program, which sends mental health professionals and a paramedic rather than police to low-level 911 calls and appears to have wide support from the community. The program is currently funded through the Caring for Denver Foundation, but Gilmore says she’s exploring ways to deploy more STAR units across the city.
The Denver Police Department represents the largest chunk of the city budget, which is funded by taxpayers. Last year, the city allocated $254.2 million to policing.
Hancock has not expressed support for shrinking the police department budget and instead rambles when asked if the police should be defunded.
“I think we ought to have a very good conversation about where the resources of the police department go,” he told Colorado Politics in June, “but we also have a responsibility to make sure that we have a well-equipped, well-trained police department that is ready and willing to respond to the needs of people — and that includes holding officers accountable for the mistakes they make on the street, intentionally or unintentionally. But I do not believe that you can reduce our actions around policing and safety to a hashtag and have it mean something.”
Meanwhile, the Hancock administration is negotiating a new contract with the Denver police union that would give officers a raise in 2022.
Public police budget hearings before the Denver City Council kick off Sept. 18.
Gilmore, who will help guide the council through the budget process, said "for the first time in history" council members will be applying an agreed-upon racial equity lens to make budget decisions that benefit all residents, “especially those who have been historically oppressed in the decision-making process.”