Oct 10, 2023 - News

Denver City Council submits changes to Mayor Johnston's budget

Illustration of the Denver City and County Building with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez

Denver's rental assistance program could get an additional $17.5 million to help people pay their rent and utility bills. That's on top of the $12.6 million budgeted for the upcoming fiscal year.

Driving the news: The additional money is the largest proposed change from the Denver City Council, whose 13 members formally submitted proposals last week to tweak Mayor Mike Johnston's $4 billion spending plan.

Why it matters: The council's suggestions are a major test for Johnston that could hint at the working relationship between him and city council members.

Of note: 25 proposed changes — including the rental assistance money — are supported by a supermajority, meaning nine or more council members back it. They total roughly $80 million.

  • That's enough to override a mayoral veto.

The intrigue: Last week, Councilmember Stacie Gilmore released a video message calling on Johnston to be more transparent about his administration's funding requests.

State of play: The council's suggestions span across city departments and align with their key priorities, which include improving customer service for city resources, increasing housing affordability and improving public safety, according to a letter outlining the recommendations.

By the numbers: Among the largest proposed changes is spending up to $15 million on Denver Health, the city's safety net hospital, to provide more services. Others include:

  • $10 million to fund an after school program called Out Of School Time.
  • $6.9 million to expand the Support Team Assisted Response, or STAR program.
  • $5 million to fund the Safe Routes to School program.

Between the lines: The council's letter suggests using money from Denver's general reserve to pay for the rental assistance funding, and notes backing this program is connected to the mayor's emergency declaration on homelessness, since it helps people stay housed.

Zoom out: Three proposals received only a simple majority of support. These include:

  • $1.5 million to create the Office of Neighborhood Safety, $1.5 million to expand the Second Chance Center, which provides assistance to formerly incarcerated people, and $1 million for a sidewalk improvements study.

What's next: The mayor has until Oct. 16 to submit his final budget proposal to the council.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect López was critical of his office's funding not because it was cut (it was not) but because it was not increased by as much as he had requested

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