Jan 24, 2024 - News

Denver tapping 2024 savings to tackle migrant crisis

Migrants sleep in a makeshift shelter last January at an undisclosed location in Denver. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver is planning to dip further into its savings to cover costs related to the increasingly unsustainable influx of migrants arriving from the southern border.

Why it matters: The city is using taxpayer dollars and drawing down on funds that could become critical for other unforeseen emergencies or economic downturns.

Details: Mayor Mike Johnston's administration proposed a plan Tuesday that would take $10 million from the city's contingency fund and place it into the Border Crisis Response Special Revenue Fund created last year, leaving about $24.2 million left in savings.

Yes, but: These funds are only expected to cover the first quarter of 2024, according to Denver budget director Stephanie Karayannis Adams.

  • "There's a strong possibility" the city will need to tap its savings even more "given the uptick most recently" and "any other surges" ahead, she told council members Tuesday.

By the numbers: The city — which is currently sheltering about 4,400 migrants — estimates it's spending about $90 per person per night, including lodging, staffing, food and supplies.

  • It's also spending an average of $300 per ticket for each migrant seeking to travel elsewhere by bus, plane or train.

The big picture: Johnston projects the city's migrant response could cost $180 million in 2024, which could lead to a "very, very painful conversation about budget options," he said earlier this month.

What they're saying: Cutting the budget to meet migrants' needs "exacerbates the vitriol at the political level," Penfield Tate, a former state lawmaker, said last week on PBS12's "Colorado Inside Out."

  • "If you're a resident and a taxpayer, and your services get reduced because the city's got to spend $180 million to deal with the immigrant crisis, I think you have a legitimate beef," he said.

What's next: City council members are expected to vote on the reallocation of resources in the coming weeks.

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