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Denver residents can weigh in on mayor's proposed budget in public hearing Monday

Mayor Mike Johnston rejected most of the council's proposed budget changes
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Posted at 4:34 PM, Oct 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-22 20:02:34-04

DENVER — Denver’s city council will hold a public hearing on Monday to give citizens a chance to weigh in on the mayor’s proposed budget for next year.

Despite the mayor’s record spending proposals, some say his budget falls short in some areas.

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston’s proposed general fund budget calls for spending $1.7 billion next year, but the final amount is yet to be determined.

Earlier this month, the city council asked the mayor to provide additional funding for several programs, including emergency rental assistance.

Community groups say emergency rental assistance is more critical than ever, with evictions skyrocketing toward record levels.

“It's not just the humane thing to do to stop evictions. It also is the most cost-effective way to respond to homelessness, stopping it in the first place,” said Zach Neumann with the Community Economic Defense Project.

Of the $81 million in additional spending the city council requested, the mayor only agreed to $10.6 million, including an additional $3 million for emergency rental assistance.

That brings the total in emergency rental assistance spending to $15 million. That's half of what community organizations had been pushing for.

“The big challenge we're facing here in rental assistance is last year we had about $20 million of funding. $17 million of that was state and federal,” Johnston said at a recent hearing. “That all disappeared.

In a letter to the council explaining his reasoning for rejecting most of their spending requests, Johnston said next year’s fiscal outlook had started to shift due to softening sales tax revenue and the ongoing migrant crisis.

“These changing conditions could place significant strain on our 2024 budget and weaken the availability of reserve funds. As we considered the below funding proposals in this light, we were extremely careful not to reduce the city’s reserves below the required 15% threshold to ensure Denver is prepared for whatever challenges may come in 2024,” Johnston said.

Council members were disappointed the mayor only agreed to a small portion of their requests.

“I’m really glad that the mayor decided to add a small portion of the requested rental assistance funding to the budget that the council voted on. But once again, I have to say that this is really not enough,” said Councilwoman Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, noting that the number of evictions in Denver could reach 12,000 this year. "If we don't want to continue this vicious cycle, we have to make the investment."

Of course, council members were disappointed that other projects didn't receive additional funding.

Denver residents can weigh in on mayor's proposed budget in public hearing Monday

“The mayor decided to ignore the council’s widely supported $10 million for after-school programs,” said Councilman Paul Kashmann. “I have a lot of trouble looking at our budget vote in the next couple of weeks.”

Council members could propose and approve amendments to the budget and even override a mayoral veto with enough support.

But such a move is rare. The council usually defers to the mayor and his administration, which includes a large staff of financial experts, on most budget matters.

It’s unclear what the council will do.

The Denver Metro Tenants Union is urging the city council to remain committed to their proposal for additional emergency rental assistance.

Members can propose budget amendments on Oct. 30 and Nov. 6.

The city’s budget must be approved by Nov. 13.

Monday's budget hearing gets underway at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.

Citizens interested in speaking must sign up between 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. the day of the hearing.

To sign up to speak, click here.

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