Denver mayor says $937 million debt package could help city if there’s another recession

By the second quarter of 2018 (that’s spring), the city should be ready to start taking out the new debt approved by voters, Mayor Michael Hancock said.

Mayor Michael Hancock cheers at first polling numbers during a watch party for the 2017 Denver Election, Nov. 7, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Mayor Michael Hancock cheers at first polling numbers during a watch party for the 2017 Denver Election, Nov. 7, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) voting; vote; election; denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty;
Mayor Michael Hancock cheers during a watch party for Denver’s 2017 bonds vote, Nov. 7, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Last night, Denver voters approved $937 million in new debt to fund new projects and maintenance across Denver. Now, it’s time for the city to get to work.

The city will begin by searching for a management company to coordinate the dozens of construction and renovation projects that are now on deck.

By the second quarter of 2018 (that’s spring), the city should be ready to start taking out the new debt approved by voters, Mayor Michael Hancock said. Speaking on Wednesday morning, he promised that the city would be transparent and accountable in its handling of the new debt.

“We don’t take the decision that they made last night lightly,” he said.

Asked whether there was any risk that a downturn could make it difficult for the city to handle this new debt, Hancock said the bond program could actually be a boon in a recession.

“They typically get approved during or right before recessionary periods. And these type of bonds actually serve to help sustain Denver during those times,” he said.

That was the city’s experience with the 2007 bonds.

“We all know what happened in 2008. Denver, the city, was the only real entity in the state of Colorado doing anything,” Hancock said. “So we kept architects, we kept construction companies, construction workers working during the recession.”

Bonds, he said, could be an “economic engine” during down times.

The city has said that it can afford the new debt without increasing property taxes. That’s because property values have increased lately, which means that people are paying more in taxes on the same tax rate.

The city’s property values will have to grow at about 1 percent per year to keep up with the cost of the bonds, 9News reported. Values have increased by an average of 5.6 percent over the last 16 years, per 9News — so, that seems like a fairly conservative strategy.

Hancock also said that the city would ensure that some of the new projects employed local people in a way that economically benefits the city’s residents.

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.