Billion Dollar Budget Reflects Dramatic Change In City Priorities

On March 30, 2018, the Keller Administration submitted its 2018-2019 fiscal year city budget to the Albuquerque City Council for review and budget hearings.

This was the very first operating budget since taking office submitted Mayor Tim Keller.

As expected, the budget contains a significant increase in spending for “public safety” and social service programs cut so drastically by the prior Republican Administration.

“Public safety is by far and away the number one priority in Albuquerque. That’s why our budget reflects this priority above all” Keller said at a civic plaza news conference announcing the budget.


For the last eight (8) years under a Republican Administration, City Hall’s budget has steadily declined each year with major cuts to public safety and essential services to avoid any and all “gross receipts” tax increases and to reduce the size of city government.

The Keller Administration was left with a $40 million-dollar projected deficit that would have required extensive budget cuts, layoffs or furloughs or further cuts in essential services.

In response to the projected deficit, the city council enacted a 3/8 th increase in gross receipts tax.

The tax increase was also necessitated by the city losing $25 million in revenues a year from the repeal of the “hold harmless” provision.

The “hold harmless” provision was where the state agreed to provide reimbursement for lost revenues in gross receipts from the sale of food and prescription drugs in order to fund corporate tax cuts.

The City’s Finance Department is projecting that the city will lose $2.3 million in “hold harmless” payments in the next fiscal year, and a total of $38 million over a 15-year period.

The total Keller budget proposed for fiscal year 2018-2019 is approximately $995 million which is an increase of approximately $40 million from this year’s fiscal budget that ends June 30, 2018.

The City Finance Department is projecting general fund revenues to be at $582 million in the coming fiscal year, which is a 9.6% increase from the current fiscal year.

The projected revenue from the new 3/8 gross receipts tax increase enacted by the city council will be enough to cover the deficit and fund further operating expenses of approximately $574.8 million in the general fund.

The three-eighths cent gross receipts will go into effect July 1, 2018.

The new tax is expected to generate $40 this year and expected to bring in a projected $50 million annually thereafter.

Keller’s budget increases the general fund spending by 8.4% from $530 million to $574.8 million.

When you include the city’s enterprise funds, which are standalone departments such as the Aviation Department and Solid Waste Department financed by revenues generated from fees charged, the total city budget approaches the $1 billion-dollar figure.


An impressive 80% of the new monies generated from the new tax increase will go to fund the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and the Albuquerque Fire Department (AFD) and their programs.

Spending highlights in the 2018-2019 city budget for crime prevention include:

* $12.8 million to carry out a four-year plan for recruiting new officers. APD currently has 878 sworn police but budgeted for 1,000 officers. The new budget is for 1,040.


The Keller Administration is proposing to increase the number of sworn police officers from the current 878 positions filled to 1,200, or by 322 sworn police officers, over a four-year period and return to community-based policing. The increase funding of 1,000 sworn police to 1,040 mandates that in order to get to the 1,040 figure by this time next year, APD and the Police Academy will need keep up with expected retirements and will have to hire at least 162 new officers either as new recruits or as lateral hires.
In 2016, the department graduated more than 90 cadets from its training academy, and because of retirements and other departures, the department had a net gain of six (6) officers. 1,000 to 1,200 applicants are needed to get a class of 40 cadets. In 2016 APD had 90 retirements. The net gain in 2017 was almost zero. Currently, APD has 878 sworn police officers and in 2017 graduated 73 cadets. The biggest problem that the budget does not acknowledged is that if APD has the same number of retirements and other departures that it had last year, it will mean that the department’s number of sworn officers will shrink and not grow.

* $2.3 million is budgeted for compliance and implementation of the police reforms mandated by the settlement agreement with the Department of Justice regarding police use of force.


This is an appropriation that in no way can be considered voluntary but is mandatory under the federal APD consent decree. During the last three years, the Berry administration and APD command staff resisted the reforms. You can anticipate the reform process will take at least another three years to implement. Thus far, significant progress has been made by the Keller Administration with a stronger commitment to implement the agreed to reforms

* $1.9 million is budgeted to address a backlog of more than 4,000 untested rape kits. The rape kit backlog was identified by Keller when he was the State Auditor.


It is critical that the backlog of rape kits be processed for felony prosecutions. All too often, DNA evidence and a victim’s testimony are the only evidence available to obtain a conviction for rape and child sexual abuse. DNA evidence found in rape kits is the type of evidence used to identify and convict rapists, especially serial rapists. All too often, DNA evidence results in a conviction of an innocent defendant being thrown out and another criminal identified.

* $1.8 million for the “Property Crime Reduction” to help address the city’s rising property crime rates, especially auto thefts.


In February, 2017, FBI statistics revealed property crimes in Albuquerque increased by 13.3 percent, bucking the national trend of decreases in burglaries and larcenies. Albuquerque reported 38,528 property crimes — or 6,860 per 100,000 — and 6,236 total burglaries — 1,110 per 100,000 residents. Auto thefts in the Albuquerque jumped by the highest percentage with 7,710 motor vehicle thefts reported in 2016, an almost 50 percent increase over the year before. That was seven times the percentage change on a national level.

* $3.9 million for the city’s Code Enforcement Department and the Safe City Strike Force, including $102,000 in new appropriations to undertake board ups of blighted properties and begin the process of condemnation and demolition of properties declared a nuisance.


The $3.9 million appropriation is a commitment to reinstate a program that was dismantled by the previous administration. From 2002 to 2009, the Safe City Strike Force was formed to combat blighted commercial and residential properties. Thirty (30) to forty-five (40) representatives from the Albuquerque Police Department, the Albuquerque Fire Department, the Fire Marshal’s Office, the Planning Department Code residential and commercial code inspectors, Family Community Services and the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office participated comprised the strike force.

For eight years, seventy (70) to one hundred fifty (150) properties a week, both residential and commercial properties would be reviewed by the Strike Force. The Safe City Strike Force would handle referrals from the general public, neighborhood associations, the Mayor and the Albuquerque City Council. The Safe City Strike Force routinely prepared condemnation resolutions for enactment by the Albuquerque City Council to tear down substandard buildings. From 2002 to 2009, the Strike Force took civil enforcement action against some 6,500 properties, both commercial and residential.

In 2010, the previous administration in essence began to dismantled and reduce funding for the Safe City Strike Force. In 2018, the Safe City Strike Force has one employee, its director, and the Safe City Strike Force exists in name only. The $102,000 for board ups of blighted properties is a good start, but significantly more will be needed to address the approximate 3,000 substandard properties throughout Albuquerque. Eight years ago, the Safe City Strike had $1 million in funding for board ups, teardowns and condemnations. For the past eight (8) years, little or next to nothing was done by the City of Albuquerque to address blighted and substandard commercial and residential properties despite repeated demands from neighborhood associations and property owners.

-$918,951 for increase pay to the city’s public safety staff in the Transit, Security and Animal Welfare operations to address historical pay inequities.

COMMENTARY: There has been a dramatic increase in the number of assaults against city bus drivers by passengers. Consequently, more security is needed on city buses, especially if the ART Bus project if ever in fact is up and running.

– $360,000 to support the downtown cleanup program.


The new budget reflects a strong commitment to Albuquerque’s youth with more resources being allocated to help Albuquerque’s children.

$1.8 million is being allocated for community school educational enhancement activities.

$954,600 is being allocated to the Family and Community Services for before and after school programs.

The city’s goal is to double the participation in before-school and after-school and summer programs for children.

The proposed budget fully funds programs to benefit Albuquerque’s, especially ask risk youth, including:

– Increasing the number of summer hires and paid teen leaderships programs for high risk youth
– Making the “Middle School Soccer League after school soccer program
– Adding after school clubs in schools that do not have them
– Expanding collaborative programs with community arts organizations
– Broadening the outreach programs for youth recreational activities through the parks and Recreation Department
– Full funding for the Head Start Program
– Expand the Bosque Youth Corps and Bosque Ecosystem Monitoring Program


Youth programs are absolutely essential to giving a much needed helping hand to our at-risk youth. “At risk youth” all too often find themselves in harm’s way, are “latch key” children who return to an empty home after school because their single parent is working or the child turns to the streets or turns to gangs to escape their home environments or turn to committing crimes and wind up in our juvenile justice system.


A welcomed and dramatic departure from the previous Republican Administration are the amounts and resources being allocated toward behavioral and mental health programs, drug addiction initiatives and programs for the homeless.

Highlights to the increases in social services by the city include:

* $15 million in affordable housing contracts
* $8.2 million in homeless services.
* $5.7 million in mental health and substance abuse contracts.
* $18.2 million for homeless and behavioral health programs. Prior to the enactment of the gross receipts tax increase, these programs were originally projected to be cut by $2 million.
* $1 million and over in funding of early intervention and prevention programs, domestic violence shelters, domestic violence services, sexual assault services, services to abused and for neglected and abandoned youth.
*Continued funding for the funding of the “There’s Better Way” program that employs homeless citizens.
NOTE: There are approximately 3,000 homeless in the city at any given time.


The Keller Administration is calling for an $88 million dollar of additional funding and increased costs for APD over the next four fiscal years from 2018 to 2022.

The Keller Administration APD expansion will be over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures, to hire 350 officers and expand APD from 850 sworn police officers to 1,200 officers by implementing a hiring and recruitment program to offer incentives, pay raises and bonuses to join or return to APD in order to return to community-based policing in the hopes of bringing down crime rates.

The $88 million dollars for expanding APD will have to include expanded academy training and the vehicles and other equipment that additional officers will require.

The recruitment and hiring plan proposes to add 100 new police officers per year until a 1,200-staffing level is reached.

The ultimate goal is to return to community-based policing.

At a minimum, the expansion plan calls for $32 million dollars in recurring costs.

The recurring costs do not include the price of recruitment strategies nor pay increases designed to recruit and retain officers.

The 2018-2019 budget proposal calls for APD to increase its ranks to 1,040 officers in the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1, 2018.

Midway through the current fiscal year, APD had 878 officer’s despite being fully funded for 1,000 sworn police officers for the past three fiscal years with the number of sworn police going down to as little as 836.

According to Interim Chief Michael Geier, recruiting and hiring new police officers will allow experienced officers to take on investigative roles within the department in order to increase APD’s rate of solving felony cases forwarded to the District Attorney for prosecution.


In 2010, APD was at a full staffing level of 1,100 sworn police officers. From 2010 to 2018, the number of sworn officers dropped to 836 as a result of retirements, ineffective recruiting practices, recruits unable to complete the screening process to get into the academy and admitted cadets unable to complete the physical training and education training resulting in low graduating numbers from the police academy.

In 2017, APD response times went to historical highs with calls to APD taking hours instead of minutes to respond threatening public safety. In 2017, APD was funded for 1,000 sworn officers but had as low as 853 sworn police officers.

Funding for the unfilled positions went to pay police overtime. Last year, APD busted its overtime budget by $4 million dollars and it went from $9 million budgeted for overtime to $13 million spent in overtime.

In 2016, field service officers responded to 546,550 calls for service with a priority 1 response time of 11 minutes, 35 seconds which is approximately two minutes over the national standard. Of the 853 sworn police 436 were assigned to field services, resulting in 417 sworn police officers assigned to the various specialized felony units and command staff. Given the volume of felony arrest and cases, APD is severely understaffed to complete felony investigations.

A December 11, 2015 Albuquerque Police Department Comprehensive Staffing Assessment and Resource Study concluded that APD needs at least 1,000 sworn officers.

A “Status Quo Projection” for Number of APD Officers was included in the original APD expansion plan presented in a budget cut analysis as follows:
Starting Officer Count each year for the next four years: 2018: 880, 2019: 872, 2020: 864, 2021: 857
Annual New Recruits each year for the next four years: 56 per year for a total of 224
Annual Lateral Recruits each year for the next four years: 2 per year for a total of 8
Total Annual Recruits each year for the next four years: 58 per year for a total of 232
Annual Retirements each year for the next four years: 41 per year for a total of 164
Annual Resignations each year for the next four years: 24 per year for a total of 96
Total Annual Attrition each year for the next four years: 65 per year for a total of 260
Net Loss each year for the next four years: 8 per year for a total of 32
Remaining Officers each year for the next 4 years: 2018: 872, 2019: 864, 2019: 857, 2020: 849

According to the proposed budget, APD currently has 878 sworn police officers.

According to the status quo projections, APD will virtually have no increase in growth without expending $88 million dollars to attempt expansion.

Based on previous performance history of the APD Academy of being unable to keep up with retirements and the extent of lack of sufficient lateral hires it is more likely than not that the number of sworn police after a full year will be 925 sworn police.


The new city hall budget allocates funds for three additional “bait cars” in order to make far more auto theft arrests.


Last year, the National Insurance Crime Bureau ranked the Albuquerque and Bernalillo area as having the highest rate of cars stolen per capita. Auto-theft is a nexus to all the other crimes and auto thieves are responsible for most other crimes. On March 21, 2018, the “Bernalillo County Auto Theft Suppression Effort” was announced where the Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and New Mexico State Police were joining forces to address the city’s and the county’s out of control auto theft rates. The auto theft suppression effort will include tactical operations that combine technology, resources, manpower and intelligence from all three of the law enforcement agencies to arrest more suspects and recover more stolen vehicles.


Albuquerque’s city budget is a “performance based” budget and for that reason it attempts to predict how APD and the fire department will fair statistically when it comes to responding to calls for service and solving crimes.

APD’s budget is projecting that officers will solve 70 percent of the city’s homicides.


A 70% homicide solve rate is probably way too optimistic. Currently, the homicide unit has 9 detectives. The APD Homicide Unit still has 35 unsolved murders from last year. Albuquerque had twenty (20) homicides reported from January 1 to March 31, 2018. In 2017, violent crime rose by 18% over the previous year. Since 2012, violent crime has dramatically increased in Albuquerque by 77%. Midway through the current fiscal year, APD had solved just 46 percent of the city’s homicides.

The proposed budget estimates that APD will make approximately the same number of misdemeanor, felony and domestic violence arrests as were made midway through the current fiscal year.

Assuming the same number of arrests is probably way too optimistic and there will probably be more arrests given the cities rising crime rates and DWI offenders.

According to FBI statistics, crime in Albuquerque has risen more drastically since 2010 than in any of America’s 30-largest cities.

Officials are expecting the number of SWAT activations by Albuquerque to continue to increase.

In the 2016 there were 44 SWAT activations and in 2017 there were 59 SWAT activations.


The Keller Administration is proposing to spend $3.2 million dollars to develop and establish the “AFD Mobile Health Care and Community Outreach Program”.

The mobile Albuquerque Fire Department (AFD) unit will have a paramedic and a person on board who can do community outreach and respond to indigent or homeless people or people in crisis.

The goal is to free up time for police officers and firefighters to respond to more pressing calls for service.

The program will shift resources from high cost reactive strategies, including a full crew responding to a 911 call from someone who does not actually need an ambulance.

The program will shift those calls to less resource-intensive approaches like home or site visits to common callers and community risk reduction efforts for private residences and public places.

The program will also include a robust and visible Basic Life Support Unit presence in the Southeast Heights and other high needs area.

This new program will allow the Albuquerque Fire Department to provide additional services as a partner to the city-wide effort to interrupt the cycle of crime and lead to a safer city.


This was a program and concept proposed by Mayoral candidate Gus Pedrotty. The program makes perfect sense and should be implemented on an expedited schedule. The Keller Administration is to be commended for adopting the suggested program. The program is a clear and dramatic reflection of the change in attitudes and priorities from the previous administrations attitude of favoring a reduction in social services.


The stated mission of the city’s Economic Development Department is:

“To develop a more diversified and vital economy through the expansion and retention of businesses; develop appropriate industry clusters and recruit target industries; and assist new business start-ups and promote the film and music industries. The department supports the tourism and hospitality industries through collaboration and oversight of the city’s contractors. The department also fosters international trade efforts and internal business opportunities for Albuquerque companies”

The fiscal year 2018-2019 Keller proposed budget for the Economic Development Department is $4.27 million with 11 full time positions which reflects an increase of 8.9% from the previous fiscal year.

The proposed budget contains $6.3 million in promotional funds for tourism and economic development made available through the Lodger’s Tax and Hospitality Fee Funds.

$250,000 is being allocated to be applied toward prominent or “world class” exhibitions.

$199,000 is being allocated for the international trade program.


The previous Berry administration was never truly committed to economic development and diversifying our economy despite stating otherwise. Under the Berry Administration, the 2018 fiscal year budget for the Economic Development Department was $3.6 million, a decrease of 24.1% from the fiscal year 2017 original budget.

$6.3 million in promotional funds for tourism and economic development is probably not enough to have any real impact on attracting that much tourism or businesses to Albuquerque.

Albuquerque is facing enormous obstacles when it comes to its economy to the point a major investment must be made to turn things around.

During the last eight years, Albuquerque has fallen to the bottom and in many cases dead last of every meaningful ranking in the country, including economy, jobs, crime, education, real estate, desirability, and traffic. Even though Albuquerque is the largest city economy in the State, New Mexico is number one in unemployment and number one in children living in poverty. Albuquerque has lost 14,900 jobs during the last 10 years, which is roughly 4 jobs a day.

According to one Brookings Institution report, the Albuquerque metro area’s economy was so bad between 2009 and 2014 that it almost fell off the charts of three measures of economic health. Of the largest 100 metro areas in the U.S., Albuquerque ranked 100th, 99th and 83rd in the three areas measured by the Brookings Institute: Growth, Prosperity and Inclusion. According to the same Bookings Institute report, economically hobbled cities like Jackson, Miss., and Rochester, New York, fared better than Albuquerque. Albuquerque ranked 99th for economic growth, 83rd for prosperity and 100th for inclusion, which measures how an area’s poorest residents are doing in the economy.

On October 1, 2017 Wallet Hub, a personal fiancé website, published the story “Fastest Growing Cities In America”. ( Albuquerque ranked 450th in economic growth among 515 cities in the United States according to the Wallet Hub report. Wallet Hub ranked the cities using 15 metrics, including population growth, unemployment and poverty rate decrease, job growth and other measures. Among large cities, Albuquerque ranked 60th out of 64. Among all cities, Albuquerque fared especially poorly on unemployment rate decrease (481); job growth (446); growth in number of businesses (443); median house price growth (433), and regional gross domestic product growth (433).
According to US Census reports, more people are leaving the State than moving in, and our youth are leaving Albuquerque in droves to seek employment with a future elsewhere even after they get their college education at our universities. During the last eight years, Albuquerque has failed to attract one single business or major corporation to Albuquerque.

An 8.9% million increase in the new budget for the Economic Development Department is so meager as to be short sighted given the magnitude of the city’s economic problems and the city’s reliance on federal funding and the city’s failure to diversify our economy.

Albuquerque can and must expand and find better ways to use financial incentives for economic development such as tax increment districts (TIDS), industrial revenue bonds.

The city’s budget should include and fund economic development investment programs such as initial startup funding with claw back provisions, with such a fund to start with at least $10 million. Albuquerque needs to pursue with a vengeance real growth industry like healthcare, transportation and manufacturing, and the film industry to diversify our economy.

Public-private partnerships in the growth industries where ever possible should be encouraged and developed. Special emphasis and support should be given to Albuquerque’s film industry which is developing, expanding and proving to be very successful in providing well-paying jobs.

With the budget hearings and the eighths (3/8 ths) increase in city tax revenues, the Mayor and the City Council still have an opportunity to make a real commitment to economic development, if they want.


The previous attitude of the Republican Administration for a full eight years emphasized a reduction in social services, reduction in essential services especially, acceptance of failure in public safety, reducing the size of government and opposition to any and all tax increases regardless of any and all need or justification for a tax increase.

The Berry Administration left the Keller Administration with a $40 million-dollar deficit and the first Keller budget fills the debt hole.

Review of the entire proposed city budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 reflects a clear and dramatic reflection of the change in attitudes and priorities from the previous Republican administration.

It is no surprise to many city hall observers that the Keller budget for the new fiscal year contains the largest increase in city hall spending in 10 years, spending that is desperately needed to turn the city around in a new direction, especially when it comes to public safety and reducing the cities out of control crime rates.

The submitted 2018-2019 city budget submitted by Keller is where “the rubber hits the road” and is only the very first step with determining if Keller will be a successful Mayor.

The City Council will now have budget hearings and vote on the proposed budget.

Voters and the citizens of Albuquerque we will soon see if the city council will go along with Mayor Keller’s new vision and spending priorities for the city when the adopted budget goes into effect July 1, 2018.

Let the city council budget hearings begin!

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.