With the city of Denver facing deep budget cuts this year, CBS News Colorado has learned that at least one city department has already implemented a hiring freeze and is actively discussing potential furloughs and layoffs for its workers.
Sources within the Denver City Attorney's Office said in the last month, administrators have decided not to fill some vacant positions and are looking hard at having workers take unpaid furlough days or possibly layoffs as they try to cut nearly $5 million from their budget.
City Attorney Kerry Tipper declined to confirm specifics of what her office is looking at in terms of budget cuts.
"It's still very early in the process," wrote Tipper. "We are in the midst of assessing our budget options and won't have much more to share for a few more months."
Tipper has held several town halls with her employees to discuss the budget issue and how it might impact her office's employees.
The specter of furloughs or layoffs is a response to the migrant crisis, according to the Johnston administration, which has said expenses to support the influx of migrants could cost the city $180 million in 2024, necessitating widespread departmental cuts to help fund the effort to house, feed and accommodate thousands of migrants.
Up until now, Johnston administration officials have not identified what city agencies might be considering to address the shortfall.
"All agencies have been asked to identify potential savings within their 2024 budgets. It's too early right now to say what specific savings will be until we have had the time to assess and identify options," said Laura Swartz, communications director for Denver's Department of Finance. "That work is underway now and will take several weeks to a few months to complete."
Denver City Attorney's Office sources indicated the potential for furloughs and/or layoffs is preliminary and may change, but it suggests how deep the cuts may need to be and the pain that may lie ahead for many city agencies.
While city administrators aren't providing many specifics about what cuts may look like, Scott O'Sullivan, a board member with First Tee Colorado Rocky Mountains, fears that the forecasted cuts will have a trickle down effect on his nonprofit and the general public.
"We may go from an organization working with 10,000 to 11,000 kids for free in Denver Public Schools to maybe a thousand or less because we won't have the manpower to help in all these schools," said O' Sullivan, who has been a board member with the First Tee organization for 18 years.
First Tee, a golf-oriented nonprofit, helps students in 30 DPS schools with their reading, writing, math, and life skills.
The organization relies on four full time city employees for support, but fears budget cuts might curtail city support.
"I think it's important for the people of Denver to know some of these cuts are going to be hard and affect a lot of people," said O'Sullivan. "It will directly impact how many kids we can serve."
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