Denver Announces Impacts to City Budgets Following Border Deal Failure

Published on February 09, 2024

As a direct result of the federal government’s failure to pass legislation that would provide funding and support to cities managing a significant influx of migrants, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston today announced impacts to the Denver Motor Vehicle (DMV) and Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) budgets and operations. These are the first departmental budget changes in response to the migrant crisis.  

"The choice by Republicans in Congress to purposefully kill a historic, bipartisan border deal this week will have a devastating impact in Denver,” said Mayor Mike Johnston. “I’m incredibly proud of how city team members have stepped up over the past year, but is clear that the federal government is not going to support our city. As a result, today, we began making the hard decisions to reduce department budgets and begin reducing migrant services. Denverites have done their part, the city will do our part. The federal government failed to do their part. Addressing this crisis will require shared sacrifice, but we will continue to work together to meet this moment.”  

Last month, the city began the process of reallocating funds from the city budget to our migrant response. That included pulling $10 million from the contingency fund and $15 million from the Richard T. Castro building remodel fund to be put into the Border Crisis Special Revenue Fund. This is in addition to the city’s ongoing work of holding many positions vacant and carefully reviewing new or expanded contracts and programs.

The city will move forward with the following department budget changes:  

Denver Motor Vehicle (DMV)

The city will not hire a recruit class of nine new DMV employees. The city’s existing DMV staff will rotate among Denver’s five motor vehicle locations. To maintain services in each corner of the city, starting March 4, the following changes will go into effect:

  • The DMV will no longer take vehicle registration renewals in-person. Instead, residents should renew their registration through mail, online or kiosk locations.
  • By mail: Mail payment, your renewal card and proof of emissions or insurance if required to Denver Motor Vehicle, 2855 Tremont Place, Denver.
  • At a kiosk: Kiosks are located in grocery stores around the city and will print registration stickers on the spot. Residents who need an emissions test can use the kiosk the day after the emissions test is completed. Results will show up in the kiosk automatically. Visit denvergov.org/motorvehicle for kiosk locations.
  • By moving routine renewal transactions online, the city can preserve in-person support for new registrations, title services, license plates and people who need additional assistance.
  • The city’s five DMV locations will have rotating weekly closures, which will allow employees from the one closed branch to staff the four other branches. No changes will be made to the days and hours of the Tremont Branch (2855 Tremont Place), which is the DMV’s administrative center. All other branches will close for one week, every four weeks, on a rotating basis. Residents are urged to complete their motor vehicle transactions online or at a kiosk, or to visit denvergov.org/motorvehicle for current hours of operation. 

Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR)

To reduce costs without sacrificing access to public spaces, the following policies will be or are in place:

  • Reduce spring recreation programming by 25%. This programming may be updated as we continue with the budgeting process.
  • Reduce days of operation for recreation centers beginning Feb. 20.
  • Regional centers will go from seven days of weekly operation to six days.
  • Local and neighborhood centers will continue to be open six days a week, however, with a reduction in hours of operation. 
  • Updated operating hours for Denver’s recreation centers will be available online next week.
  • Forgo planting flower beds in the city this year.
  • Pause new applications for several permit types until further into the budgeting process, including:
  • Public event permits
  • Special occasion permits
  • Tournament permits
  • *All historic and new events that submitted permit requests on or before Feb. 4 will not be impacted

Along with these department budget cuts, the city will make changes to migrant services provided. Denver will begin to decrease the number of newcomers served and will continue to monitor spending.

With no federal action coming, there will be more migrants arriving who require extensive support because they cannot work. Denver is a welcoming city, and we have gone above and beyond to serve newcomers with dignity and compassion – that won’t stop. However, Denver cannot continue to bear this alone. We are not shutting the door, but we are giving better support to the newcomers who arrive in our city.

The total savings from the DPR and DMV actions will be approximately $5 million. Combined with $10 million from contingency funds and $15 million from the Castro building, the city will put $30 million in progress toward the crisis.  We will have additional cuts in the weeks ahead.  

Watch Mayor Johnston’s full press conference here.

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