Albuquerque City Councilors Republican Trudy Jones and Democrat Ken Sanchez have introduced a bill that would increase Albuquerque’s gross receipts tax by 0.375 percentage point, or three-eighths of a cent per dollar is expected to bring in about $55 million annually.
(February 20, 2018 Albuquerque Journal, page A-1, Council asked to tie tax hike to APD growth; Police Union seeks guarantee that money will help hire officers)
The City Council legislation states that public safety is a priority for the city and that additional funding is necessary to attract more police officers to Albuquerque but says revenue from the tax would be used for “general municipal purposes.”
The bill does not specifically say how much of the tax revenue would go to police, prompting the Police Union to complain.
After 8 years of budget cuts, downsizing government and reduction of personnel, and the city facing a $40 million deficit, the proposed tax increase is no surprise.
Timing of the proposed tax increase dove tails into Mayor Tim Keller submitting his first city budget on April 1, 2018, with city council budget hearings to follow and enactment of the budget by July 1, 2018.
Shaun Willoughby, the president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, wants the city councilors to amend the legislation to “guarantee” that 60 percent of all the revenue generated from the tax will be new revenue for the police department to recruit more officers and increase pay.
According to the police union, the revenue generated from the tax increase should go to the police department until the department is fully staffed.
The union goes as far as to say that the city council is “flying the banner of public safety” to help justify enacting the tax.
What the Police Union President is really saying is that no other city department is hurting as much as the police and for that reason his union members and APD are the only department that should really benefit from any sort of tax increase.
The City of Albuquerque has a total general budget of $955.3 million dollars, of which $529.6 million is the general fund which goes to providing all essential services, with the balance going to capital improvement projects, debt service and other essential services.
The essential services provided by the city include not only police protection but also fire protection, solid waste and garbage pickup, our transit and bus services, family community services, the bio park including the zoo and aquarium, museums, children’s science museum and balloon museum, libraries, senior citizen centers, parks, golf courses, open space management, swimming pools, youth programs, programs to help the homeless, the planning department, code enforcement, municipal affairs and street repairs and projects, fleet maintenance just to mention a few.
The Police Union ignores that there are roughly 4,000 other city employees that are overworked and other city departments and services that have also suffered from severe budget cutbacks and reduced salaries.
The Police Union also ignores the huge budget deficit the City is facing.
The City is facing a $6 million deficit for this year, a $40 million dollar deficit for the next fiscal year, $69 million for the ART Bus project that must be found if the federal grant is not forthcoming, $40 million needed for the emergency operations center and communications center, the need for funding for 350 more police officers that the Mayor and city council want, replacement of the roughly 20% of police units and fire department units that are needing to be replaced, not to mention the $25 million dollars lost because of repeal of the hold harmless provision.
The point is that the lion share of the $55 million raised by the tax being proposed will in all probability have to be applied to the $40 million dollar projected deficit and other incurred debts.
There is also a need for further tax revenue to address all the other city departments, vacancies and increases in salaries to those other city employees who have been given significantly less in salary increases, or no increases at all, for the last eight years while APD’s budget and salaries increased.
APD BY THE NUMBERS
“Public Safety” represents 29% of a $529.6 million general fund budget appropriations for the City of Albuquerque, and includes the Albuquerque Police Department and the Fire Department.
The Albuquerque Police Department’s (APD) Annual budget is $171.8 million.
APD employs 1,484 full time employees.
The Albuquerque Fire Department (AFD) employs 699 full time employees.
The Albuquerque Fire Department (AFD) annual budget is $75.5 million.
The Albuquerque Police Department had a general fund budget of $171.8 million approved for the 2017-2018 fiscal year which included an increase by $7 million or a 4.2% increase for the Department.
The adopted FY/18 General Fund budget for APD has funding for a total of 1,484 full-time positions which consists of funding for 484 civilian support staff and funding for 1,000 sworn police officers.
Although fully funded for 1,000 sworn officers, APD has 853 sworn police officers, and only 436 are assigned to field services, divided into three working shifts, less any of those on vacation, sick leave or in court.
At any given time, there are 124 sworn police officers assigned to field services, divided by three shifts, or 24 officers per field command shift.
IT TOOK EIGHT YEARS TO DOWNSIZE APD
The operative words the union is using is dedicate the new tax “until the department is fully” staffed.
If history is any indication of what is going to happen, it is going to take years to grow the police department until it is fully staffed as the union wants, even if the entire tax is dedicated to APD.
In other words, taxpayer money will just sit in an account if the police union has its way.
Eight (8) years ago, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) was the best trained, best equipped, best funded department in its history and it was fully staffed with 1,100 sworn police officers.
In eight (8) years under the watchful eye of the Albuquerque City Council, APD went from 1,100 sworn police to 853 sworn police officers.
From 2010 to 2014, APD was fully funded for 1,100 sworn police positions despite the mass exodus of sworn police and the APD Police Academy’s failure to recruit and keep up with retirements.
Three years ago, the City Council reduced funding from 1,100 sworn officers to 1,000 sworn officers because of the Berry Administration’s failure to recruit and keep up with retirements.
Currently, the Albuquerque Police Department is budgeted for 1,000 police officers but actually employs 836 with only 430 assigned to the field to take calls for service.
Money from the 150-plus police officer vacancies has gone to pay police overtime, and the Albuquerque Police Department busted its overtime budget by $4 million going from the $9 million budgeted to $13 million.
It’s not likely the new administration is going to be very successful anytime soon in filling all the vacancies APD already has, let alone know what to do with millions thrown its way that can only be used for one department.
Mayor Tim Keller made the campaign promise that he wanted to increase the number of sworn police officers from the current 836 positions filled to 1,200, or by 350 sworn police officers, and return to community-based policing, a promise that in all likely can not be fulfilled unless there is a tax increase or a cannibalization of other city services and budgets.
Keller was endorsed by the Police Union and no doubt the Union will be making its demands and expecting the Mayor to support what it wants.
Getting to the 1,200 level of sworn officers where APD is fully staffed is going to take years and it will have to be done in increments that is realistic and can be accomplished.
If the Police Union is really concerned about public safety, rather than only thinking of themselves, it should be asking the City Council and the Mayor to take bold action and propose a sperate and additional “public safety” tax to be enacted by the City Council along with the creation of a Department of Public Safety that is fully funded and staffed with the consolidation of the police department, fire department, 911 emergency dispatch center as well as the emergency operations center.
Until then, APD’s slogan will be “To serve and protect” while the police union’s slogan will be “What’s in your wallet?”