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Mayor Hancock Doubles Down on Equity Platform

2019 Budget Reflects Equity, Access, Affordability and Neighborhood  Preservation

DENVER –  This morning, Mayor Michael B. Hancock submitted his 2019 spending plan to City Council, a $1.46 billion budget that sets a record for affordable-housing funding, will help preserve neighborhood character and allows the city to keep pace with the ongoing demands of a growing population. 

The proposed budget will advance Mayor Hancock’s Equity Platform, unveiled during his State of the City Address in July, to connect more people in more neighborhoods to the unprecedented economic opportunities Denver is enjoying today.

The budget also will fund many other high-priority needs, such as offering more mobility options and addressing traffic congestion, strengthening services for the homeless and vulnerable residents, and maintaining Denver as one of the safest big cities in America.

While the budget includes many large investments, it also includes small items that can make a big difference in people’s lives, like eliminating late fees for books and other materials checked out of the Denver Public Library system starting Jan. 1.

“My equity platform has always been at the foundation of my administration. In fact, I have lived it growing up in Denver, working hard to give an equal voice and place to those who are under-served,” Mayor Hancock said. “This budget reflects the maturity of those ideals in a comprehensive funding plan that breaks down the silos of city government and invests in the assets that will ensure a prosperous future for every Denver resident.”

The mayor continued, “When we set out to create this budget for Denver’s residents and neighborhoods, that’s where we focused – expanding equity and access, improving affordability, and preserving neighborhood character, culture and community.”

Mayor Hancock’s 2019 budget proposal is fiscally responsible and balanced, maintains healthy reserves and contingency funds for emergencies, and preserves the city’s strong credit and bond ratings.

“The Mayor’s 2019 budget proposal will allow us to responsibly meet the greatest needs of a growing city and keeps us on solid financial footing as we remain focused on delivering the highest quality services at the lowest possible cost for our customers – the people of Denver,” said Chief Financial Officer Brendan Hanlon.

Specific funding proposals include:

Expanding Affordable Housing & Homeless Services

  • A record of more than $50 million for affordable housing thanks in large part to a 2 percent increase in the city’s retail marijuana sales tax rate, allowing for the creation or preservation of more than 6,000 new housing units over the next five years.
  • In coordination with City Council, expanding the city’s property-tax rebate program for home-owners, so that for the first time, families are eligible for support, while also expanding eligibility to include more seniors and people with disabilities.
  • $1.5 million to continue the Temporary Rental and Utility Assistance Program, which provides short-term support to struggling renters and helps prevent evictions and homelessness.
  • $14.7 million for homeless services and facilities, including $4 million to hire up to 10 “peer” navigators in our shelters and to begin implementing recommendations from our new Three-Year Shelter Strategic Plan.
  • More than 31 percent, or about $10 million, from 2019 Affordable Housing Fund dollars will be directed to support those experiencing homelessness.

Protecting Denver’s Unique Neighborhoods

  • Creation of a new Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization Team to deploy resources specifically tailored to help protect vulnerable neighborhoods under threat of displacement.
  • Expanding the capacity of our Financial Empowerment Centers and opening two new Neighborhood Resource Centers – in Globeville and Montbello – modeled after a pilot launched in April at the Valdez-Perry Branch Library. These resource centers will provide residents with easy, direct access to financial coaches, social services, housing resources and more – right in their neighborhoods.
  • Launching “Denver Talks,” an initiative to capture the unique stories and history of Denver’s neighborhoods and residents.
  • Beginning to implement recommendations in the new Denveright long-term planning documents, including $9 million in capital projects, with a focus on equity, underserved communities and neighborhood preservation.

Improving Transportation and Mobility

  • An additional $27 million to continue implementing the city’s Mobility Action Plan, including bigger commitments to Denver’s bicycle and pedestrian networks. These investments include:
    • Doubling our annual commitment to bicycle-network buildout, with a $4.2 million investment. The Mayor also is proposing a one-time $2.9 million investment in the bike network from the recent sale of a city-owned property. These funds will support Mayor Hancock’s ambitious effort to add 125 miles of bike lanes over the next five years.
    • $1 million dedicated for transit improvements and transit program development, including speed and reliability improvements along key corridors in coordination with RTD. Funding for the “Navigate North Denver” program to help residents, delivery trucks and commuters maneuver around construction projects in this part of the city.
    • $800,000 to continue the city’s support for the Denver Bike Share program. This investment would allow us to discount or even offer free B-Cycle rides to Denver residents and to extend the program into currently unserved neighborhoods.
    • $3.8 million to continue pedestrian-network buildout by making improvements at 10 intersections and filling critical sidewalk gaps.
    • $2.6 million for projects to address safety at high crash locations, to implement recommendations of the Vision Zero Action Plan, and for new safety medians in Green Valley Ranch.
    • An additional $250,000 for Safe Routes to School projects, bringing our total 2019 investment in children’s/youth safety and mobility to $750,000.

Growing Our Parks and Enhancing Our Recreation Programs

  • More than $1 million to improve the upkeep, maintenance and safety of our downtown parks so they remain welcoming to all.
  • $1.9 million to make improvements at neighborhood parks, expand parkland, and construct a new pocket park in Westwood, new playgrounds in North Denver and a new dog park in south Denver.
  • $200,000 to accelerate the replacement of old fitness equipment such as weights, balls and mats at recreation centers.

Keeping Denver a Safe Big City

  • An increase of 68 additional police officers and firefighters to maintain the safety of Denver’s neighborhoods and families, specifically:
    • 31 new police officers, including three new detectives dedicated to investigating domestic-violence cases, and improved use-of-force training to emphasize de-escalation tactics.
    • 37 new firefighters to help ensure appropriate response times citywide and to open the new Northfield fire station in mid-2019.

Bolstering Mental Health Services and Addressing Substance Misuse

  • $3.1 million to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive response to the mental-health, opioid and substance misuse challenges facing Denver, including:
    • Piloting a 24/7 treatment-on-demand program with Denver Health
    • Hiring two substance misuse peer navigators
    • Deploying a mobile van for needle exchange, syringe access and access to services.
  • Ensuring 24/7 access to mental health services in our jails, because half of the jail population experiences mental health issues.
  • Creating a “Navigator Court” to help guide defendants who are out of compliance with court orders to come back into compliance.

Extending Equity and Access to Opportunity for Residents and Neighborhoods

  • $1.2 million for WorkNow, a key part of the Mayor’s Equity Platform and the city’s employment approach to training, placing and advancing workers in the construction industry. WorkNow also will help ensure that families living in communities directly affected by public construction projects – including the National Western Center, Colorado Convention Center expansion, and Elevate Denver infrastructure bond program – can access the employment and skills development opportunities offered by those projects.
  • $1.1 million for small business capacity-building, a small business lending program, and youth employment.
  • A $150,000 investment in race and social justice training for city staff. 

Ensuring a Sustainable Future

  • $2.2 million to continue expanding the city’s curbside recycling and composting program.
  • Purchasing 119 electric vehicles for the Police, Fire and Public Works fleets.
  • Hiring additional staff to implement the voter-approved Green Roof initiative.

The budget calls for holding 15.2 percent of expenditures in reserves, as well as $28.6 million in contingency for emergencies.

City Council committees will begin budget hearings later this month, with final adoption in November. The Mayor’s 2019 budget proposal can be found here.