Guide to the $937 Million Bond
About every 10 years, the Denver City Council places before the voters a list of capital projects that it would like to fund through the issuance of general obligation (GO) bonds. This year voters will be asked to approve a total of $937 million in GO bonds.
To see a PDF of all bond categories, click here: 7 Bond Issues
How will the bond revenue be used?
- Citizens will vote on seven separate ballot questions for the GO bond:
- Cultural facilities
- Denver Health
- Public safety
- Parks and recreation
- Public facilities
In most cases, very specific projects have been identified (see the listing of projects on the next page). Some of the funding is set aside for citywide programs that will require individual project selection in the coming months and years based on defined criteria. These include arterial re-paving, which is prioritized by a city pavement index database, and construction of missing sidewalks, which will be prioritized based on proximity to transit stops and bike share locations.
If all categories are approved, the bond package would fully or partially fund 460 separate projects with $50 million set aside as a contingency fund. Transportation accounts for about 44 percent of total project funding. The $937 million is divided about evenly between new projects and repair of existing facilities.
Capital projects are defined as city-owned assets with a normal life span of at least 10 years. Generally, bonds must be issued within 10 years of voter approval and bond proceeds from a specific issuance must be expended within three years.
For a list of projects specifically benefiting northeast Denver, see “Denver Bond Projects in NE” in the September Front Porch (frontporchne.com/article/will-ne-denver-benefit-bond-upcoming-ballot).
Will this increase my property taxes?
No tax increase is proposed; instead, the city expects to continue imposing the existing 8.433 mill levy for debt service on the GO bonds.
The current mill levy is likely to continue indefinitely regardless of results from this election. A Denver Finance spokesperson said, “The reality is, these projects represent critical infrastructure needs that are too extensive to incorporate in the annual capital project budget. The longer we wait to execute these projects, the more costly they will be to address later.” In other words, expect future bond elections that would depend on this mill levy.
What is the “Our Denver” Bond Campaign?
An “Our Denver” campaign committee has been formed to promote information about and support for the bond. Campaign manager Jake Martin worked in a similar role in the 2015 Mayor Hancock re-election effort. As of the most current reporting cycle, the campaign had raised $1.5 million from individuals and corporate sponsors such as Xcel Energy, Oakwood Homes, the Western Stock Show Association and several law firms. Martin says, “Many of the contributors have a history of supporting civic projects.” He is not aware of any organized opposition but adds, “We are not taking anything for granted. It is fortunate that the bond package was unanimously supported by City Council and I am thankful for the extensive public participation used to shape the proposal.” He said he expects fundraising to exceed the $1.6 million collected during the 2007 Better Denver campaign.
What is Denver’s history with past citywide GO bonds?
- 1989—Voters approved $241.7 million in 10 project categories. Support ranged from 50.5 percent to 75.6 percent
- 1998—Voters approved the $98.6 million “Neighborhood Bond” with five project categories. Support ranged from 58 percent to 64 percent.
- 2007—Voters approved the $550 million “Better Denver” bond package with seven categories of capital projects and a tax increase question. Support for the seven capital projects ranged from 52 percent to 66 percent. The eighth vote authorized a new 2.5 mill levy designated for capital maintenance (in addition to the previously existing 8.433 mills devoted to debt service on the general obligation bonds).
By August of this year, 364 of the 387 total bond projects authorized by votes in 2007 had been completed. Seven projects were in design, 14 were under construction and one project had not commenced. Current projects underway include: I-25/Broadway reconstruction from Mississippi to Arizona, Hadley Library Branch renovation, Denver Art Museum Welcome Center buildout, new Galleria canopy lighting at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, new restrooms at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Red Rocks paving and patron amenities, and 13th Street pedestrian streetscape.