Nov 13, 2023 - News

How the 2024 budget in Denver is different than years past

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

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

When the Denver City Council formally adopts Mayor Mike Johnston's 2024 budget Monday, the spending plan will carry an unusual amount of influence from council members.

Details: The council's unanimous decision last week to move an additional $13.5 million to the 2024 rent and utility assistance program came after a disagreement with the mayor.

  • He initially agreed to increased funding, but not to the amount council sought.

Zoom in: It's a major change from previous years. The council passed a single $1 million amendment in 2021 and none in 2020, Denverite reports.

Why it matters: The final budget shows the more diverse city council is willing to take a hands-on approach and challenge the mayor.

  • It's a message that its 13 members won't rubber stamp bills proposed by Johnston's administration.

Catch up quick: The change was a culmination of a weekslong process, starting with the council requesting a significant increase for the rental assistance program on Oct. 6, before the two sides went back and forth about spending.

State of play: This year, the most significant change was driven by a drastic increase in eviction filings in Denver, leading to concerns over a spike in homelessness in a city already reeling from its impact.

  • It was led by three new members — Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, Shontel Lewis and Sarah Parady — who are starting to carve out a progressive bloc on the council.

What they're saying: "We were really clear-eyed as a group that we need to be doing everything possible to keep people housed," Parady tells us.

Between the lines: Johnston agreed to the final changes, and in a statement noted he had worked closely with council to reach the total in a way that worked "for the city budget and for Denverites."

Of note: The council also added an additional $550,000 to a program seeking to end traffic deaths by 2030 and $450,000 for a program seeking to create a safer environment for kids to travel to and from school.


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