On May 21, 2018 the Albuquerque City Council unanimously approved the 2018- 2019 operating budget of $577 million in general fund appropriations.
The general fund budget goes to fund essential services, including the police and fire departments.
When you include the city’s enterprise funds, which are standalone departments funds such as the Aviation Department and Solid Waste Department financed by revenues generated from fees charged, the total Albuquerque city budget approaches the $1 billion-dollar figure.
The 2018-2019 fiscal year begins July 1, 2018 and ends June 30, 2019.
On March 5, 2018, in anticipation of the budget being adopted, the Albuquerque City Council voted to raise the city’s gross receipts tax rate by three-eighths to deal with a projected $40 million-dollar deficit.
Without the tax increase, the budget deficit of $40 million could have only been resolved by severe budget cuts, including layoffs, furloughs and reduction or elimination of essential services.
The enacted budget contains a significant increase in spending for “public safety” and social service programs cut so drastically by the prior Republican Administration.
ENACTED BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS
Public safety spending highlights of the enacted general fund budget are as follows:
*$2 million for recruiting new APD officers for the next fiscal year.
This allocation is the beginning of the Keller administration proposed APD expansion plan. The Keller administration is proposing to spend $88 million dollars, over a four-year period, with 32 million dollars of recurring expenditures to hire 350 officers and expand APD from 878 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.
*$2.3 million for compliance with the Court Agreed To Settlement Agreement (CASA) reached between the city and the Department of Justice in November, 2014 regarding police use of excessive force and deadly use of force.
This is an appropriation that in no way can be considered voluntary but is mandatory under the federal APD consent decree. The taxpayers first paid $1 million to hire “experts” to negotiate the consent decree, then paid $4 million for the Federal Monitor and another $2.5 million of the required training mandated, all the while the command staff for 3 years resisted the reform effort. It is anticipated the reform process will take at least another three years to implement and in all likely another $4 million.
*$1.9 million to address a backlog of more than 4,000 untested rape kits.
The rape kit backlog was identified by Keller when he was the New Mexico State Auditor. $1.5 million will be outsourced and $383,000 will be used to hire four (4) positions at the APD crime lab which will include one (1) DNA forensic scientist, two (2) latent forensic scientists, and one (1) latent technician. 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.
*$1.8 million for the Property Crime Reduction program.
The “Property Crime Reduction” program is intended to 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, or 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.
$114,000 for mobile cameras for parks security.
$100,000 for contractual parks security.
SAFE CITY STRIKE FORCE
The following appropriations were approved by the City Council in an effort to reinstate the viability of the Safe City Strike Force:
$ 1.5 million in additional public safety spending was added by the city council including $125,000 for Safe City Strike Force code enforcement specialists.
$300,000 in additional funding for Safe City Strike Force board-ups and demolitions
$75,000 to begin land banking for vacant and abandoned buildings.
The above $1.87 in appropriations 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. 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 $300,000 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. 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.
Albuquerque city councilors approved a $1 million budget amendment for children’s programs.
The budget amendment includes funding for a middle school soccer league, after-school clubs and at-risk youth summer hires through the Family and Community Services Department
New programs through the Cultural Services and the Parks and Recreation departments have also been funded. The city’s goal is to double the participation in before-school and after-school and summer programs for children.
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.
SOCIAL SERVICES FUNDING INCREASED
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.
COMMENTARY: Prior to the enactment of the gross receipts tax increase, these programs were originally projected to be cut by $2 million.
*$225,000 for Heading Home vouchers.
COMMENTARY: The “There’s Better Way” program is the program employs homeless people to do hourly work. There are approximately 3,000 homeless in the city at any given time.
A welcomed and dramatic departure from the previous Republican Administration are the amounts and resources the Mayor requested and the City Council appropriated toward behavioral and mental health programs, drug addiction initiatives and programs for the homeless.
Review of the entire enacted city budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 reflects a clear and dramatic reflection of major changes in attitudes and priorities from the previous Republican administration.
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 Keller Administration inherited a $40 million-dollar deficit and the first Keller budget fills the debt hole but was able to do so only after the City Council enacted a tax increase.
It is no surprise to many city hall observers that the Keller budget Approved by the city council for the new fiscal year contains the largest increase in city hall spending in 10 years.
The spending reflected by the adopted budget 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 city council adopted 2018-2019 city budget is where “the rubber hits the road” and is only the very first step with determining if Keller will be a successful Mayor.