September 15, Mayor Michael Hancock unveiled a general fund budget proposal of $ 1.49 billion for 2022, which is within the range of the budget originally planned for 2020, before the COVID pandemic disrupts Denver’s economy.
“This $ 1.49 billion budget is an important part of our long-term financial plan to build a sustainable and inclusive recovery. It is financially responsible, fair, invests in our community, strengthens our local businesses and serves as a critical force to rebuild our economy so that it works for everyone, ”Hancock said in announcing the budget.
As in years past, one of the main beneficiaries of general funds in the proposed budget is the Department of Public Safety, which houses the police, sheriff and fire department, to the tune of $ 567.67 million.
The general fund includes income generated by the city largely through taxes, such as sales and use tax and property tax, as well as fees. When general fund income is combined with other sources of funding the city has this year, such as money generated from special income funds, Denver projects a total operating budget of $ 2.6 billion for 2022, a 9% increase over the total operating budget. in 2021.
The proposed general fund budget of $ 1.49 billion for 2022 represents a 12% increase over the general fund budget of $ 1.33 billion proposed by Hancock and approved by Denver City Council for 2021. The general fund budget of $ 1.485 billion initially approved for 2020 has been reduced to $ 1.265 billion due to the pandemic.
Denver is confident it will receive a total of $ 308 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the federal government. Denver has so far received a check for $ 154 million, with the next half of the money coming in 2022.
The 2022 budget proposal aims to allocate $ 6.3 million from ARPA “to support alternatives to shelter such as safe outdoor spaces, safe outdoor parking lots and small residential villages, as well as increasing the number of rapid rehousing / rapid resolution services for homeless people, “according to a statement from the town hall.
In the budget proposal, Hancock’s office also suggests spending $ 190 million on affordable housing, housing stability and homeless support.
Denver’s economy, while rebounding in key ways, still has some major problems.
For example, tenant tax, which is generated by hotel stays, remains lower than 2019 figures and will likely continue to stay lower simply because of the drop in tourism, according to Brendan Hanlon, the city’s chief financial officer.
And while Denver has long been viewed as a city with solid employment rates, it now struggles in this category.
“For the first time, at least in my experience, Denver is actually lagging behind in terms of unemployment rates relative to state and national unemployment rates,” Hanlon said on a call with reporters. after publication of the budget. While figures for July 2021 showed the national unemployment rate at 5.4%, Colorado’s was 6.1% and Denver’s was 6.5%.
“One factor contributing to Denver County’s higher unemployment rate involved the higher concentration of the leisure and hospitality industry in Denver County, an industry that has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. For 2022, we assume that employment continues to slow through the first part of the year, but begins to intensify in early summer as the public health situation moderates and seasonal hiring resumes for move closer to pre-pandemic rates Full employment levels are expected in the fourth quarter of the year, “the 2022 budget proposal indicates.
Other highlights of the budget proposal include increased funding for the Support Team Assisted Intervention Program (STAR), which employs a non-police mobile truck with a paramedic and a social worker helping people in crisis on the streets of Denver; $ 10 million for Central Library updates, just over half of the $ 19 million Denver Public Library needs to complete the planned renovation; and $ 3.5 million in capital expenditures for the restoration of the Civilian Conservation Corps camp at Red Rocks. The New Deal-era barracks and campus “will be preserved and restored to serve Denver residents with programs ranging from workforce training to recreation,” according to the mayor’s office.
The budget proposal is subject to Denver City Council approval in November. In the meantime, the council has the possibility of modifying certain budgetary items.
During his budget presentation, Hancock made a momentary shift to lobby against Initiative 304, a November voting measure sponsored by the Denver Republican Party president and funded by black money seeking to lower Denver’s sales tax from 4.81 percent to 4.5 percent.
“I want to be very clear. This will lead to immediate cuts, up to $ 80 million in the budget if passed,” Hancock said, calling it a “threat to everything” he spoke of during his speech. presentation.
Denver’s November poll will also include five measures in a bond package totaling $ 450 million. One of the voting points is asking for permission to borrow $ 190 million for capital projects at the National Western Center, including a new arena; the other four focus on projects ranging from building new libraries to improving accommodation options for the homeless.