By Eric Heinz
With larger revenue streams than in the last few years due to COVID-19, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is aiming for the city to spend about $1.6 billion next year, a nearly 11% increase from 2022.
Councilwoman Amanda P. Sandoval, who represents Northwest Denver, said she was able to get her budget amendments forwarded, one of which was $500,000 to study the 38th Avenue corridor, something she said she’d been working on since she was a council staff member.
“I’ve been trying to make sure that that corridor gets the type of attention that it needs,” she said. “Unbeknownst to me, it was already in the budget, so $100,000 was added to make sure that it’s the type of study it needs. I also believe it needs to rectify some of the right-ofway issues.”
Sandoval said she also wanted to ensure funding was available for parks and recreation surveillance cameras to help deter crime.
“I feel really good, actually, about where we landed with this budget,” she said. “It had so much padding this year. It was interesting to look at the budget because of all of that had happened (regarding COVID-19).”
The total 2023 budget for all funds, including pensions, grants and others, is $3.75 billion, an increase of 8.2% from 2022. The city’s main operating fund is proposed to be $1.66 billion, up from that fund’s amount from last year by 10.9%, according to Mayor Michael Hancock’s office.
“This proposed budget presents historic investments to resolve homelessness, increase our stock of affordable housing, reduce crime, and address the community’s behavioral health needs, particularly the drug-overdose crisis plaguing our streets,” Hancock wrote in his letter to the city council. “The budget also prioritizes the reinvigoration of downtown.”
Sandoval said with the state of the economy and lingering issues like supply chains, she doesn’t think the 2024 budget will be as robust. “How could it be when people aren’t spending as much because of inflation and other things?” she said. “Even though interest rates have gone up, we’ve still seen a steady amount of permitting coming through (the Denver Department of) Community Planning and Development, which helps with revenue.”
Sandoval said the two voter-approved bonds, RISE from 2021 and Elevate Denver from 2017, continue to support public infrastructure projects, but she said she still thinks operations may slow down a bit in the new year.
“I’m not an economic expert at all, but this is just what I’m hearing from my constituents,” Sandoval said. “I think it’s going to be interesting because we’re approving a budget, and then about halfway through, we get a new administration.”
Hancock’s term ends mid-2023. Sandoval said she also wanted to make sure the STAR Program continues to get the support it needs, which operates as an alternative to law enforcement responses when someone is having a mental health issue.
Editor’s note: The Denver City Council approved the mayor’s proposed budget Nov. 14, after the paper was printed.