All Denver departments to cut budgets to help fund migrant crisis


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Mayor Mike Johnston has asked every agency in the city to submit proposals to cut budgets by a total of $180 million.

DENVER — No part of the City of Denver will be spared from proposed budget cuts to help pay for the migrant crisis. Every office, from the police department to the animal shelter, is being asked to cut money. It could even impact the funding our elections department gets this year.

In a critical 2024 election year, the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office says Mayor Mike Johnston has asked to cut nearly a million dollars from the department that oversees elections. The money, they say, is needed to help pay for the migrant crisis.

Down the street at the police department, Denver Police Department (DPD) says they’re working on finding places to cut their budget. So is the Department of Public Safety, and the animal shelter, and the health department. Every agency in Denver has been told to find ways to cut its budget for the same reason.

“We have asked departments to go out and take a look at how they would make budget reductions,” Johnston said at a press conference Friday. 

Last Friday, Johnston announced publicly the first two cuts. $5 million from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Denver Parks and Recreation. Now, we know a little more about what he was alluding to when he said more cuts are coming.  

“While they’re the first steps they unfortunately will not be the last and may not be the hardest,” Johnston said. 

The Denver District Attorney’s Office says they’ve been asked to cut their 2024 budget by 5%. The Department of General Services says they’re looking to cut 15%. Even the Department of Human Services, which is leading the efforts to help migrants, has already diverted $15 million from other projects towards the crisis and is looking for ways to cut more money.

Even the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, which is responsible for everything from trash pickup to potholes, may soon have to cut funding.

It isn’t known yet how much funding a lot of these departments will be forced to cut from their budgets. Our understanding is that the departments submit proposals to the mayor’s office, which will then make decisions on what spending to cut and where. Johnston has said the city needs to find $180 million.

Below is a list of every on-the-record response 9NEWS received from every Denver agency we asked today about what budget cuts they have been told to consider. 

Department of Transportation and Infrastructure 

As has been previously reported, city departments have been asked to identify savings for 2024. DOTI leaders are currently evaluating our department’s budget in response to that request.  No decisions have been made around any potential budget savings for DOTI. Mayor Johnston has stated the city will have a greater sense of any budget changes, other than those already announced, in a few months.

Department of General Services 

Yes, General Services has been asked to find savings within our department. We are in the beginning phase of identifying savings. We will most likely know the final amount in the coming months.

As you probably know, the mayor is asking agencies to look at up to 15% of budgets. We won’t have an exact figure until after proposals have been considered and evaluated for impact and feasibility. We expect to have more to share on this in the coming months.

The Mayor’s Office has asked all city agencies to take a close look at their budgets. We are committed to doing our part to support the city as a whole and as an independent agency we believe our best contribution is to offer insight based on our audit work to identify savings opportunities for the mayor’s agencies. We have offered to meet with the mayor’s team regularly to provide savings opportunity updates.

Denver Police Department 

DPD is in the process of identifying potential budget saving measures to present to the Mayor’s Office, and the Department is approaching the process with the goal of minimizing service impacts to the community. For more information, please reach out to the Mayor’s Office. Thanks

Department of Public Safety 

The Mayor has asked every city agency, including the Department of Public Safety, to begin to identify budget savings proposals for 2024. It is too early right now to say what specific savings will be within our department until we have had the time to assess and identify options. We expect to have more to share on this in April.

Denver Department of Public Health and Environment/Denver Animal Shelter 

DDPHE is required to identify cost savings like other city agencies. As one of DDPHE’s divisions, the animal shelter is also required to find savings.

Yes, Mayor Johnston did ask our office to cut nearly a million from our budget.

This year is a big year for our office, with four elections at the helm. Clerk Lopez and the executive leadership have expressed their concerns with this request and are currently in talks with the Mayor’s executive team on how we can avoiding cutting our budget in a year when the stakes are high.

We have not come to a resolution, however, we are hopeful we will be able to get through 2024 without sacrificing the safety and security of our election workers.

Department of Human Services

All departments have been instructed to look for cost savings. At DHS, that recently meant diverting $15 million from the revitalization of the Richard T. Castro building toward the migrant response fund. Like other departments, we are seeking to identify savings while limiting the impact on the people we serve.

Department of Housing Stability (HOST)

HOST was included in the ask by the administration to evaluate our budget to find savings.

District Attorney’s Office 

We have been asked to cut our 2024 budget by about 5% and are now in the very preliminary stages of considering certain cost-saving options.

Mayor of Denver’s Office 

Mayor Johnston has directed all city departments to evaluate their budgets and identify potential savings. It is too early right now to say what specific savings for other departments will be until we have had the time to assess and identify options. That work is underway now and will take several weeks to a few months to complete. The Mayor has also asked other elected officials that receive budget from the city, but do not report to the Mayor, to also look for savings in their 2024 budgets, as this funding could be used to help address expenses related to the migrant crisis. This participation is merely requested, not required.

The City of Denver is hyper focused on securing federal work authorization as quickly as possible for as many migrants as possible. We’ve been working directly with USCIS on these work authorization clinics, and for those individuals without work authorization, we’ve been consulting with the White House on how to legally and humanitarianly support newcomers while maintaining the fiscal health of the City. (See some background on this below).

We are not planning to roll out budget announcements monthly. As departments continue to take a look at their specific savings options, we will continue to evaluate and make announcements once decisions are final. We expect to have these decisions in early Q2 2024.

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All Denver departments to cut budgets to help fund migrant crisis

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