Denver introduces nearly $90M 'newcomer' budget plan for migrant aid


DENVER (KDVR) — The city of Denver has released a nearly $90 million budget plan to fund migrant aid and sheltering for the rest of the year, identifying how the city plans to fund the program and breaking down budget cuts by department.

On Wednesday morning, the city released a budget plan behind its new program for migrants, whom the city calls "newcomers." The city claims this new approach allows for surges in arrivals and focuses on self-sufficiency and moving people to independence.

Earlier in the year, Mayor Mike Johnston asked every city department to find creative ways to reduce costs by 10%-15%. That was when Denver projected spending $180 million with 5,000 people sheltered a day, so as the influx of migrants has decreased, the percentage for cuts decreased significantly as well.

The newcomer budget allocates $89.9 million for the full year, and $25 million has already been spent in the first quarter of 2024. The city says its new program reduced expenses by $15 million per quarter.

Denver's 'newcomer' budget breakdown for migrant aid

Here is where Denver plans to spend the $89.9 million on migrant assistance in 2024:

  • Program Administration: $3 million
  • Shelter and Housing: $51.7 million
  • Supportive Services: $9.7 million (includes case management, workforce training)
  • Transportation: $6 million
  • One Time Capital Costs: $9.5 million
  • Contingency: $10 million
  • Total: $89.9 million

But where is the money coming from? The city has $44 million planned out, with the remaining funds coming from cutting costs to major departments.

Here is how the figures break down.

Funding plan: $44 million

  • Rollover from 2023: $8 million
  • Transfer from Human Services: $2 million
  • FEMA funds: $9 million
  • General Contingency: $10 million
  • Castro Building Fund: $15 million

Cuts and budget adjustments: $45.9 million

  • Vacancy Savings: $19.9 million, 43%
  • Capital Funds: $9.5 million, 21%
  • Services and Supplies: $8.2 million, 18%
  • General Fund Reallocation: $6.7 million, 15%
  • Technology Projects: $1.5 million, 3%

(The city noted the categories above may not reflect the $45.9 million total "due to rounding.")

The majority comes from vacancy savings: not filling jobs that can remain open without affecting their office and staggering hiring dates. The city said it also tried to avoid positions that directly impact the public. This includes approximately 160 positions in total.

The cuts to services and supplies include a reduction in conference travel, official functions, marketing dollars and what the city called "moving administrative pieces."

Denver budget cuts by department

The mayor's office is taking the biggest cut of 9.6%. Here is how other department cuts break down:

  • Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency: 6.1%
  • Department of Transportation and Infrastructure: 3.8%
  • Community Development: 2.6%
  • City Attorney's Office: 2.5%
  • Executive Director of Safety: 2.4%
  • Sheriff Department: 2.2%
  • Economic Development: 2.1%
  • Police Department: 1.9%
  • Public Health and Environment: 1.9%
  • Public Library: 1.5%
  • Licensing: 1.3%
  • Department of Finance: 1%
  • Fire Department: 0.8%
  • General Services: 0.6%
  • Housing Stability: 0.3%

Other changes include that recreation centers will return to regular operating hours by June 7. Recreation programs and permits will be restored. And there will be no furloughs or layoffs of city employees and no reduction to any major public services.

Denver says it has supported more than 40,000 migrants since December 2022 at a cost of $68.1 million. Half of that was in the last four months alone and $15 million in December.

The city says its goal is not to use the entire $89.9 million to plan for potential surges in migrant arrivals. Any unused funds will roll over to 2025.

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