The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and the Office of Independent Monitor presented spending plans to the Denver City Council Thursday, as part of the council’s ongoing hearings for Mayor Michael Hancock’s 2022 budget proposal.
Of the $1.49 billion proposal, transportation and infrastructure is slated to receive the second-largest cut of the budget with 10% or $139.82 million — beat only by the city’s safety departments receiving a whopping 39%.
In contrast, a small fraction of the 8% (or $117.19 million) delegated for the city’s independent agencies will go to the Office of the Independent Monitor, the civilian oversight agency for Denver’s police and sheriff departments.
After completing budget hearings over the next two weeks, the City Council will propose amendments in early October. The council must vote to approve the final budget before it can be implemented.
Department of Transportation and Infrastructure
The budget proposal delegates $139.82 million to the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. That is a $5.2 million increase from 2021 and higher than the department’s general fund expenses in 2020 and 2019.
Over $4.3 million of the budget increase would be spent on restoring 38 positions within the department and adding nine new positions.
That includes seven positions in project delivery, 11 in snow maintenance and street patching, 13 in solid waste management, six in wastewater management, four in street maintenance and six in administration.
The staffing increases and nearly $1 million in supply funding will allow the department to increase road paving, restore monthly large item/extra trash pickups, address illegal dumping, restart the city’s vehicle and bike count program and expand translation and interpretation services in the department.
For the first time in 20 years, the department is also planning to increase parking meter costs in the city from $1 per hour to $2 in 2022. This change would result in a revenue increase of $9.5 million, according to Adam Phipps, interim executive director of the department.
“We did this purely for the purpose of changing how we move,” Phipps said. “What we’ve ultimately ended up with is a system or an environment that encourages single-occupancy vehicles.”
Of the $9.5 million, 40% would fund joint projects with RTD, 20% would support building bicycle infrastructure, 20% would go towards the construction and repair of city sidewalks and 20% would help prevent traffic crashes by improving intersections, road crossings and traffic signals.
Office of the Independent Monitor
The Office of the Independent Monitor is set to receive $2.1 million from the proposed budget. That is a nearly $200,000 increase from 2021 and up from the office’s $1.6 million spending in 2020 and $1.8 million spending in 2019.
Of the office’s budget increase, the largest cut would go to the office’s Citizen Oversight Board, a group of nine people appointed by the mayor and City Council to assess the effectiveness of the office.
Just over $62,000 would be spent on converting the board’s sole staff position from part-time to full-time. Another $27,100 would be used to expand the board’s supplies and services, including consulting for research, data analysis, graphic design, communication and community outreach.
“The Citizen Oversight Board requested this to help professionalize their work in light of community demand for increase oversight,” said Gregg Crittenden, interim independent monitor.
The remainder of the office’s budget increase would go towards merit raises, retirement contributions and restored furloughs, Crittenden said.
On Thursday, multiple council members raised concerns about the office’s small budget increase for 2022, with Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca pointing out budget constraints prevented the office from fully analyzing last summer’s George Floyd protests, only being able to cover five days.
“I’m a little bit surprised at the lack of a significant expansion in your office’s budget, given that it seemed there was not enough of a budget to do the work that the office is asked to do by the citizens of Denver,” CdeBaca said.