On May 17, the Albuquerque City Council voted unanimously to approve the 2021-2022 city budget of $1.2 billion, $711.5 million of which is the General Fund. The General Fund covers basic city services such as police protection, fire and rescue protection, the bus system, street maintenance, weekly solid waste pickup, all city park maintenance, city equipment, animal control, environmental health services, the legal department, risk management, and payroll and human resources.
With 27 different departments, the city employs upwards of 6,400 full time employees to provide the essential services city wide. The $1.2 billion proposed budget is an increase of upwards of $105 million, or 9.5%, over the current levels. The general fund spending increases to $711.5 million, an increase of $39 million, or 5.8%, from present.
The city link to the budget is here:
The $711 million approved operating budget is 5.8% higher than current year general fund spending.
CITY EMPLOYEE PAY RAISES
The City Council approved a pay increases for city employees who did not see an across-the-board bump this year. The spending plan includes a 3% cost-of-living increase for the municipal government workforce. The Keller Administration had requested a 2% pay increase.
FREE PUBLIC BUS SERVICE
The council also amended the original budget by shifted money to fund free fares on city buses. Free public bus service had been discussed by the City Council before the COVID-19 pandemic. City Councilor Lan Sena said free bus service is even more important as the city emerges from the health crisis and related economic shutdown. The city currently offers free bus rides to certain passengers, such as students under 25 and people over 60, but the amended budget will provide enough money to expand it to everyone.
FUNDING FOR GATEWAY CENTER HOMELESS SHELTER
On February 18, 2021 the Keller Administration purchased the Lovelace hospital on Gibson Boulevard in Southeast Albuquerque for $15 million. The facility is a massive 529,000-square-foot building with upwards of 50% of it is said to be vacant. The city intends to convert the medical center into a Gateway Center which will add health resources for the city along with services for the unhoused, including centrally located shelter beds and supports to connect people with housing.
The City Council approved $4 million for programming at the city’s planned Gateway Center homeless shelter and services hub inside the old Lovelace hospital. The Council also approved an amendment to add $100,000 in one-time money to develop a health center with a pharmacy on the premises.
APD BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS
As has been the case for all past budgets submitted by the Keller Administration, public safety continues to be the number one priority of the proposed 2022 city budget. For that reason, the major aspects of APD’s Budget merits review.
The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) continues to be the largest budget department in the city. APD’s approved general fund operating 2022 budget is upwards of $222 million, or roughly 4.5% higher than fiscal year 2021 existing levels. Ultimately, the City Council approved nearly all the APD funding the Keller Administration requested in the budget proposal submitted on April 1.
Highlights of the APD proposed budget include:
Funding for 1,100 sworn positions and 592 civilian support positions for a total of 1,692 full-time positions. It also includes funding for new positions, including 11 investigators to support internal affairs and the department’s reform obligations under the Federal Court Approved Settlement Agreement, and two communications staffers.
APD has 998 sworn officers after the March graduation of cadets from the APD academy, but is down to 987. Last year’s budget also had funding for 1,100 officers, but APD has failed over the last 7 years to reach budgeted staffing levels.
$2.3 million in funding to annualize funding for 44 additional sworn officer positions added in FY/21.
$3.5 million for a 2% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), subject to negotiations for positions associated with a union, health benefits and insurance administration.
$1.6 million for a net increase of 20 full-time positions for two full-time positions for the communications services department, one operation review language access coordinator, one senior buyer, one office assistant to support the Southeast Area Command Station and one office assistant to support the Northeast Command Station. Three full-time positions to support the Real Time Crime Center and 11 investigator positions to support internal affairs and compliance with DOJ.
$1,100,000 million for seven full-time positions added intra-year FY/21 at a total cost of including benefits and reduction of $126 thousand in contractual services for a net cost of $931 thousand.
$800,000 for the Department of Justice Independent Federal Monitor required under the Court Approved Settlement Agreement that is still pending after 6 years.
$400,000 for the Use of Force Review contract,
$800,000 thousand for the maintenance agreement for the new CAD/RMS software.
$106,000 for the family advocacy center lease.
$2,000,000 one-time funding increase Risk Recovery, which represents funding to cover litigation.
$74,000 for the Crisis Intervention (CIT) ECHO project.
$90,000 designated for the student loan forgiveness program for APD Officers.
$986,000 thousand for electronic control weapons (TAZER weapons).
$90,000 thousand for the CNM Cadet Academy.
$50,000 for the drag racing tactical plans from FY/21.
Funding for the following new positions are included in the proposed budget:
One senior advisor to the Mayor and CAO and one internal investigations manager were created.
One violence intervention data analyst and one violence intervention special projects manager were created to support the critical mission of reducing violent gun crime in the City.
One Superintendent of Police reform position created to provide guidance in reshaping the training, internal affairs and compliance with the Department of Justice and the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) reforms.
One Assistant City Attorney was created for APD.
NEW COMMUNITY SAFETY DEPARTMENT
The approved 2022 proposed city budget provides for a Community Safety budget of $7.7 million with 61 total employees across a range of specialties in social work and counseling to provide behavioral health services. Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair said some calls that would normally go to APD will be transferred to the Community Safety Department by this summer or fall.
In was in June of last year that Mayor Tim Keller announced the creation of the Albuquerque Community Safety Department (ACS). The new department as announced was to be responsible to send trained professionals to respond to certain calls for service in place of armed APD police officers or firefighters. It was to be an entirely new city department that was to be on equal footing with all the other 19 city departments, including APD and AFRD, that have hundreds of employees and separate functions, tasks, and services.
The ACS as originally presented by Mayor Keller was to have social workers, housing and homelessness specialists and violence prevention and diversion program experts. They were to be dispatched to homelessness and “down-and-out” calls as well as behavioral health crisis calls for service to APD. The new department envisioned will connect people in need with services to help address any underlying issues. The department personnel would be dispatched through the city’s 911 emergency call system. The intent is to free up the first responders, either police or firefighters, who typically have to deal with down-and-out and behavioral health calls.
During last year’s budget process, the Albuquerque City Council severely parred down the proposed new department. The new department as originally proposed by Keller was to have 192 employees, Keller cut it to 100 positions and then the City Council gutted it to 13 positions. The projected budget went from $10.9 Million as originally proposed by Keller then it was reduced to $7.5 Million, the City Council then slashed the budget further to $2.5 Million.
CIVID-19 STIMULUS PLAN APPROVED
During the May 17 City Council final budget hearing, the City Council also approved a $60 million spending plan for the federal COVID-19 stimulus money received through the American Rescue Plan Act. Highlights of funding approved include the following:
$8 million for business grants, including $2 million specifically for the arts and entertainment sector with $500,000 of the $8 million for a proposed art center in the Sawmill neighborhood
$5 million for renovations at Albuquerque Police Department’s Downtown headquarters.
$5 million to renovate the city’s Pino Yards facility
$3 million for city employee premium/hazard pay
$4.2 million to help residents who do not qualify for other stimulus
$4 million for new police cars and cars for other city departments
$4 million to fix the Albuquerque Convention Center’s leaky roof and improve energy efficiency
$3 million for gunshot-detection software
$3 million for Local Economic Development Act grants
$2 million to repair the roof and make other updates of the Albuquerque International Balloon Museum
$1.3 million appropriation for housing vouchers/eviction prevention/domestic violence programs with $250,000 to go specifically to the Albuquerque Street Connect program.
$1 million for improved Downtown lighting
$900,000 for a Tingley Beach splash pad and other improvements
2 CENT GAS TAX HEADED FOR A PUBLIC VOTE
In a narrow vote of 5-4, the council voted in favor of putting a 2-cent-per-gallon tax on the November 2 ballot. The city council bill would impose a gas tax of 2 cents per gallon on all gas sold at stations within city boundaries. The tax money raised would be used to rehabilitate public roads in the city. The revenue generated would pay for public street and roadway system projects, including rehabilitation to improve safety. According to a study, the new 2-cent-per-gallon tax in Albuquerque would cost car drivers $9.48 per year and truck and van owners $13.20.
Republican City Councilor Trudy Jones had this to say:
“I’m not a great advocate of raising any kind of taxes, but this is the most fair – that I’ve been speaking about publicly for 5 years at least. … As our expenses go up in the city, the cost to maintain and add new roads to our city is astronomical.”
Johnny Chandler with the Department of Municipal Development emphasized the importance of the tax. Chandler said the areas that could really use the help are southeast Albuquerque, southwest mesa, and the westside/Taylor Ranch area. According to Chandler:
“Those roadways, that asphalt, it cracks and they need some love … Those roads need some rehab. We’re planning on doing those as well but this additional funding, if it gets passed by voters, they’ll see an immediate benefit in their community. You’re always trying to keep up. … If we had $500 million right now at one time, that’s about how much money we would need to make every road in the city of Albuquerque as good as possible.”
Right now, the city is seeing only seeing $20-30 million for road rehab, which is ultimately a complete repaving and restriping of a roadway.
Links to source material are here:
The enacted City Council’s Fiscal Year 2021-2022 budget will now be presented to Mayor Tim Keller for final approval and signature.