Denver recreation centers, DMV offices are first to cut back hours to help pay for migrant crisis

Denver Motor Vehicle offices will close for a week at a time on a rotating basis, recreation centers will reduce their hours and the parks department will slash programming by 25% to help offset the fast-rising costs of sheltering migrants in the city.

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston announced the first round of budget cuts at a news conference Friday morning — changes that, including those reductions and other small ones, will add up to $5 million in budget savings this year, he said.

But more painful cuts may be coming. The city, which was sheltering more than 3,500 migrants in hotels and other places as of Friday morning, is projecting a potential $180 million budget shortfall in 2024 without more state or federal support.

Friday’s announcement signaled a turning point for city leaders. They had been planning for potential budget cuts in recent weeks but were holding out hope that a tentative border deal in Congress would spare any major reductions in city services by providing federal funding to cities like Denver.

When the border security deal collapsed in the U.S. Senate earlier this week, the city was forced to pivot, said Johnston — who pointedly put the blame on former President Donald Trump, who had pressured Republicans to reject it, in a 2-minute video posted on social media Wednesday.

“This is a plan for shared sacrifice. This is what good people do in hard situations as you’re trying to manage your way to serve all of your values,” the mayor said while flanked by City Council members and other officials, including Parks and Recreation executive director Jolon Clark.

“Our values are (that) we want to continue to be a city that does not have women and children out on the street in tents in 20-degree weather,” Johnston added. “And we also want to be a city that provides all of our constituents with the services they deserve and the services that they expect.”

But those services are now in line for cuts.

“We will reduce hours at our rec centers,” the mayor said. “Our regional centers that are seven days (a week), we’ll come back to six days. Those sites that are six days (a week) will stay in six days but will reduce hours.”

Johnston said more cuts — and possibly more difficult ones — may be coming soon.

Denver has been host to more than 38,000 people since the migrant crisis began in December 2022, many of them asylum seekers fleeing social and economic strife in Venezuela. As of Monday, the city’s public dashboard estimated it had spent more than $42 million supporting them, including by providing short-term shelter in hotels.

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Source:: The Denver Post – Politics


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