Apr 10, 2024 - Politics

Denver rec center and DMV hours restored amid shift in response to migrant crisis

Data: City of Denver; Chart: Alayna Alvarez/Axios

Denver's recreational centers and DMVs will return to normal hours this June and August, respectively, Mayor Mike Johnston's administration announced Wednesday.

The big picture: Hours were slashed in February to help the city deal with the swell of migrants. But Johnston said migrant response costs have been halved to about $90 million instead of his initial projections of $180 million.

By the numbers: Denver is largely looking at internal cost saving measures to cover the remaining $45.9 million needed in budget cuts, for a grand total this year of $89.9 million.

  • The majority, 43%, will draw from vacancy savings, meaning about 160 of the city's 13,000 employee positions will go unfilled this year, according to Department of Finance spokesperson Laura Swartz. City officials focused on never-hired or hard-to-fill positions.
  • Average cuts across most city departments hover around 2.5%, and public safety agencies — which make up the bulk of the budget — will see the biggest dollar cutback. The mayor's office is taking the largest reduction at nearly 10%.

Flashback: The first $44 million came from a variety of sources, including capital improvement and maintenance projects and its contingency fund.

Follow the money: With the latest budget cuts, no furloughs, layoffs or wage reductions will be required of city staff, and no reductions to any major public services are in the works, Johnston's administration pledges.

  • The money being pulled largely comes from agency budgets that cover staff's travel to conferences, professional development, office supplies, and marketing and communication efforts.

Friction point: Not all city employees, who are taking the brunt of these budget cuts, are likely to be happy with this proposal.

  • "While some people may be dissatisfied with the reductions, the intent here was to try and do this in a way that is not going to impact public services," Swartz told Axios Denver.

What's next: The proposed budget cuts will be weighed next week by a city council committee, and up for a final vote by the full council in the coming weeks.

Go deeper: Denver launches new "asylum-seeker program" in major migrant strategy shift

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a new quote from finance department spokesperson Laura Swartz.

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