Denver committee OKs $41M in budget cuts for migrant support

A migrant encampment is swept in west Denver (Eugene Bergman, KDVR)

DENVER (KDVR) — Denver City Council’s Finance and Governance Committee on Tuesday approved cutting about $41 million to support the city’s ongoing migrant response, a measure that will be heard in front of the full council on April 22.

According to documents presented to Denver City Council, the city previously estimated that when sheltering about 5,000 people per day, it would need a total of $180 million for 2024 migrant sheltering operations. As occupancy decreased and fewer migrants came to Denver, the city’s estimate decreased to about $120 million. That number has lowered again, now to about $89.9 million.

The council presentation shows that during the first quarter of 2024, the city spent $25 million. With the new program, the city said migrant sheltering through the end of 2024 should only cost the city about $15 million.

According to the city’s migrant sheltering dashboard, Denver has sheltered over 41,000 migrants from the southern border at a cost of about $68 million. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 712 migrants in the city’s hotel shelter and another 86 in “short-term shelter.”

With $2 million from Denver Human Services, $9 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, $10 million from Denver’s general fund contingency, $8 million in rollover funds from 2023 and another $15 million approved to be taken out of the Castro building fund, the city still has a shortfall.

Which Denver departments will see budget cuts?

That’s why the finance committee determined that $41 million in cuts to multiple city departments is needed. The mayor’s office has the largest percentage of those cuts — about 9.6% of the total $41 million will come from that office, or about $164,000.

However, in dollar amounts, Denver’s police and fire departments will see the biggest budget cuts. The police department is expecting an $8.4 million cut, the sheriff’s office is looking ahead to a $3.8 million cut and the fire department anticipates a $2.4 million cut to its budget.

In addition, the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure will see a $5 million budget, or 3.8% of its budget.

With about 70% of the city’s budget going to personnel, a primary goal was not to impact employees. To mitigate those impacts, the city said it is focusing on never-hired or hard-to-hire positions, staggering hiring dates from summer to the end of the year and minimizing impacts on workgroups dealing with staffing challenges, like permitting.

The measure will now advance to the city’s full council for first reading on April 22, and if approved, funding will become available by May 10.

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