DENVER — Mayor Michael Hancock on Wednesday submitted a $1.49 billion budget proposal to the Denver City Council for 2022 that focuses on an “inclusive economy” and continued recovery from the COVID-19 crises.
Those recovery efforts are progressing faster because of federal assistance, an increase in tax revenue, and a higher uptake in vaccinations and other COVID-19 precautions among Denverites, the mayor said. He expects Denver will be in a more financially secure setting in 2022.
“Working together with our community, our city is emerging from the worst public health and economic crisis in our lifetime. Our sound fiscal management over the years allowed us to leverage our city’s reserves to keep our city running and prevent an outright fiscal collapse brought on by COVID-19,” Hancock said in a statement. “This budget reflects the needs and aspirations of our residents, and I look forward to working with City Council and our residents as we move our city toward better years ahead.”
Last year, the city made cuts to the budget to address a forecast budget deficit. This year’s forecast shows a steady climb toward an estimated $1.3 billion in revenues, and a modest increase for 2022, which would be closer to pre-pandemic numbers, according to the mayor’s budget letter.
Small businesses were hit hard during the pandemic. Relative to January 2020, the number of small businesses open in the Denver metro area in March of 2021 was down 30.5 percent.
To address this, the 786-page budget proposal includes plans to invest $10 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to prop up small businesses, including $5 million for Business Impact Opportunity Grants, $2.5 million to re-activate the downtown core, and $2 million to support entrepreneurship in Neighborhood Equity & Stabilization Team (NEST) neighborhoods.
Another important priority in the mayor’s proposed budget is building an “equitable, inclusive community.” His plan includes:
- $1.4 million to create a new Investment Impact Fund to support vulnerable communities as the city makes investments in public infrastructure.
- $5 million from the Climate Protection Fund to increase access to cooling and green space, improve infrastructure, and reduce vulnerability to flooding, specifically to benefit disproportionately impacted communities.
- $11.5 million from the Climate Protection Fund to support projects such as solar carports and subsidized community solar subscriptions for low-income households, while also providing solar power to the public-serving facilities where they are located.
Other highlights include:
- $31.9 million in projected revenues for Denver’s dedicated Affordable Housing Fund.
- $1.7 million to support a new Affordable Housing Development Team to prioritize these projects for permit review and approval.
- $40.9 million from the Homelessness Resolution Fund for housing supports and services, shelter and services, and catalytic developments that support the acquisition and development of housing and shelter at sites that combine multiple uses and also includes $15 million from the Homelessness Resolution Fund to create an additional 180 units of supportive housing paired with services and help 585 households regain stable housing.
- $3.9 million to support 370 units of supportive housing: 125 new units that are part of a new federal Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act grant program, and 245 existing units from the city’s highly successful Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond program which are now part of HOST’s ongoing performance contracts.
- More than $200 million in capital infrastructure funding for transportation and mobility, parks and recreation, and city facilities.
- Nearly $25 million to support the scale up of our workforce development, youth apprenticeships and construction career programs, and begin to bolster a climate action workforce.
- $5.7 million in marijuana tax revenue to establish a new business development program and to level the playing field by prioritizing small and minority- and women-owned businesses throughout the economy, as well as those looking to break into the marijuana industry.
The proposed 2022 budget reflects a total of $4 billion for all funds, which is a 14% increase over the 2021 budget, according to the proposal. The mayor’s budget increases the General Fund reserve over the 2021 level to 14.2% of projected expenditures, or $213 million.
The council will take up work on the budget starting next week and will vote on a final budget in November.