Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock delivers the 2022 State of the City Address on Monday, July 18, 2022, at the Montbello Recreation Center in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Denver Gazette)

In his final budget proposal as Denver's mayor, Michael Hancock seeks to spend $3.75 billion next year and deploy "historic" resources to tackling the city's homeless challenge.

Hancock's other priorities include recruiting nearly 200 more police officers, expanding behavioral health services and invigorating downtown.

The mayor also wants to purchase commercial properties and rent them to small businesses struggling to maintain their shops.

Hancock unveiled his budget amid uncertain times for his city, which is emerging from the global COVID-19 pandemic and is facing difficult challenges, notably a sharp rise in crime and lack of access to affordable housing. Hancock struck a triumphant note in announcing his budget plan — "we didn’t just come back — we came roaring back," he insisted — but the mayor also acknowledged the economic and social realities the city faces.      

"We face similar economic uncertainties today in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and with record inflation sending the cost of everyday goods soaring for our residents and businesses. We’re rebuilding yet again, with a renewed sense of purpose about who we want to be as a city," he said in his budget memo.   

Hancock also noted that, when he became the mayor a decade ago, Denver — and the world — found itself under the throes of the Great Recession, and now, on his final year as mayor, he finds himself yet again in similar circumstances.     

Sitting atop Hancock's list of priorities is Denver's homeless challenge. To tackle it, he proposes to spend $254 million, funding that will come from the American Rescue Plan Act, the Homelessness Resolution Fund, and Affordable Housing Fund.

Of that amount, the mayor wants to allocate $20 million for "housing justice." Specifically, the money will serve as down payment assistance to "address the homeownership gap between white families and those of color, and help more families impacted by harmful historic practices like redlining to purchase a home." 

He also wants to allocate resources to decommissioning encampments:

  • $10 million to increase family shelter capacity

  • $23.25 million to acquire hotel properties to house homeless people

  • $20 million to acquire additional hotels to convert to supportive housing

  • $7.8 million for the Safe Outdoor Sites

  • $600,000 for expanded safe parking

Hancock said his public safety goal is to "have the best trained, best resourced and most effective police department in the country."

To achieve that, the mayor proposes to spend $8.4 million to recruit 188 new police officers. That would bring the police's force to 1,639. Hancock also wants to allocate $500,000 for the city's partnership with the U.S. attorney’s office to prosecute defendants caught with illegal guns under harsher federal laws.

The mayor also is requesting: 

  • $1.5 million for law enforcement training

  • $1.6 million to reduce recidivism among men leaving prison

  • $700,000 to support individuals who identify as women as they exit the justice system

  • $1.7 million to support nonprofit partners that provide youth violence prevention work

  • $1.5 million for lighting, fencing, windows, and security camera projects

Hancock also wants to spend for the "vibrancy of downtown Denver," saying the center plays a unique role in the city’s economic and cultural health. His budget includes $75,000 of ARPA funds to investigate the feasibility of converting 10-15 high-rise office buildings into housing. 

The mayor's other priorities include: 

  • $10 million for a "legacy business program," under which the city will buy commercial property and rent them to businesses at risk of getting displaced. 
  • $214 million for transportation and mobility, parks and recreation, and city facilities.
  • $48 million on "climate action," including support for the city's e-bike rebate program, community solar for schools and low-income families, and aid to residents as the city transitions toward renewable energy.

"My 2023 budget is financially responsible and considers ongoing uncertainty resulting from the pandemic, inflation and supply chain challenges," Hancock said. "My budget invests strategically in an equitable recovery rooted in justice that protects our reserves while also investing in our city in ways that will impact our community for generations." 

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