Denver City Council has started holding hearings on Mayor Michael Hancock’s $ 1.49 billion budget proposal for 2022 and to meet with Denver Parks and Recreation on Monday.
The proposed 2022 budget would delegate just under $ 83 million to Parks and Recreation, with approximately $ 49 million earmarked for parks and planning, $ 29 million for recreational activities, and $ 4.9 million for departmental administration .
That proposed budget is more than $ 6 million higher than the Parks and Recreation budget for 2021, according to the department. It’s also nearly $ 19 million more than the department’s actual spending in 2020 and nearly 7 million US dollars more than actual spending in 2019.
“We’re moving back towards 2019 budget levels, but there is still work to be done,” said Happy Haynes, executive director of Parks and Recreation.
This is because the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a slump in Parks and Recreation’s revenues since 2019. Haynes said this was because much of the department’s revenue comes from recreational centers, most of which closed during the pandemic.
All of Denver’s 31 recreation centers reopened earlier this month, though many are still not open full hours due to staff shortages. Haynes said she has 160 active recruits for open positions across the department.
The department estimates that Parks and Recreation will generate only $ 5.6 million in 2022. That’s more than double what the department made in 2020 and 2021 ($ 2.4 million and $ 2.8 million, respectively) but less than half of its revenue of 12.7 million US dollars from 2019.
“We are taking a very conservative approach to forecasting sales,” said Haynes. “While we’re open again and people are coming back, it’s uncertain. There is some uncertainty about customer loyalty and comfort under these COVID conditions. “
Just under $ 3.5 million of the $ 6 million budget increase would be spent on staffing, including restoring 18 on-call parking spaces, two project managers, a senior city planner, a utility worker, a leisure center coordinator, a leisure programs coordinator, and one Personal assistant and a contract technician.
The department also plans to convert nine park ranger positions from on-call to full-time and 15 positions from on-call leisure coordinators to full-time.
About a quarter of the budget increase – over $ 1.5 million – would be spent on hiring eight new park rangers and 11 park operations staff to oversee downtown parks, with a particular focus on Civic Center Park. The Civic Center Park was closed indefinitely last week due to excessive trash, rodents and crime.
Other spending plans include $ 359,500 for the park’s maintenance and supplies, $ 175,000 for safe outdoor areas (also known as managed homeless camps), and $ 125,052 for toilet staff hiring.
On Monday, councilors expressed several concerns about the proposed budget. Several council members argued against funding Safe Outdoor Spaces, saying funding should not be grouped with parks and recreation as the camps are not in parks.
“I don’t think this should be anything in the park’s budget,” said Alderman Jolon Clark. “It’s hard for us as a city council, and it’s hard for the public to understand the cost of some of these things the city is trying to do when we spend money in different places.”
Haynes defended the funding, saying Parks and Recreation provided fences, toilets, and hand-washing stations for the safe outdoor areas.
Several councilors also raised problems with the plan to hire eight new park rangers, most of whom would be assigned to Civic Center Park alone.
“It’s not a good use of resources to concentrate a third of the park rangers in one place,” said Councilor Amanda Sawyer. “The number 2 we are asked about the most in our office is enforcement of parking ordinances in parks.” This is not downtown. “
Other council members requested funding for more dog parks and sports facilities.
In 2022, the Park Legacy Special Revenue Fund would also raise $ 41.7 million.
The capital improvement projects would take up $ 26 million of the legacy fund, with major projects like restoring the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, elevating the canopy, improving Ruby Hill Park, installing playgrounds in Central Park and Kentucky / Knox Park, and more the addition of tennis courts in Montbello Central Park and Convention Park.
After the budget consultations with the city offices are completed over the next two weeks, the city council will propose changes in early October. The Council must approve the final budget before it can be implemented.