DENVER — Denver Mayor Michael Hancock presented his 2019 budget proposal on Thursday. The proposed $1.46 billion general fund plan prioritizes social services and safety net programs in an effort to make Denver a more affordable and equitable place to live.
“I believe our progress as a city must be measured by the intangibles, by what changes lives and builds people up, like access to opportunity and equity in our communities,” Hancock said in a news conference at the City and County Building to announce the plan.
The 588-page budget proposal lists 2019 policy priorities that address many of the challenges Denver faces as it grows rapidly and becomes a more expensive and crowded place to live.
Among the priorities are:
Expanding Affordable Housing & Homeless Services
Protecting Denver’s Unique Neighborhoods
Improving Transportation and Mobility
Keeping Denver a Safe Big City
Bolstering Mental Health Services and Addressing Substance Misuse
The mayor touted a record $50 million funding for affordable housing, achieved by harnessing marijuana tax revenue. In 2019, $10 million of the Affordable Housing Fund will go to support people experiencing homelessness. The plan calls for creating or preserving 6,000 housing units over the next five years.
“There are unprecedented demands that have been placed on our city with the need for affordable housing,” Hancock said. “This unprecedented investment in affordable housing is in lockstep with what is needed for us to try to meet the needs and the demands of the people who live in this city and who desire to live in this city.”
To try to counter displacement in traditionally low-income and vulnerable neighborhoods that are undergoing redevelopment, the city will establish a Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization Team and will invest $1.2 million in the WorkNow program to recruit and train local workers.
Under the budget plan, Denver would hire 31 new police officers, including three detectives whose sole responsibility will be investigating domestic violence case.
Denver would also hire 38 new firefighters, including 14 for a new fire station in Northfield that is scheduled to open in mid-2019. A program that provides acute medical services downtown would expand to five days a week, up from two.
Transit and transportation get additional investment in 2019. Denver plans to add 125 miles of bike lanes over the next five years, part of a $4.2 annual million investment in bike-focused transportation.
Another $1 million is dedicated to transit improvements and development and $2.6 million will go to address safety at high crash locations.
The budget plan includes an ambitious – and potentially controversial – program to provide a mobile van that would offer needle exchange and syringe access, part of a larger $3.1 million effort to combat opioid and substance abuse, paid in part by revenue from the special retail marijuana tax.
In all, the mayor’s proposed 2019 general fund budget is an increase of 4.2 percent, or $60 million, over his 2018 general fund budget. The increase is funded in part by growth of sales and use tax revenues, a consequence of Denver’s booming economy.
The budget proposal now goes to the city council for consideration and debate. It will likely face several amendments before the council votes on a final budget package in November.