New Budget, More Business
Council meets ahead of summer break
Councilor Klarissa Peña tacked an amendment on to a resolution, which was approved and authorizes the Oct. 3 municipal election. Her amendment allows the Healthy Workforce Initiative to be on the ballot and provides for a separate handout with both a summary and the full text for each voter, printed large enough so folks do not have to use a magnifier. The Healthy Workforce Ordinance would require city businesses to allow all of their full-time, part-time and temporary employees to accrue paid sick leave. Those opposing this proposed law say it will hurt businesses in the Duke City. Supporters of the bill say it is only fair that all workers should be able to take paid sick time off, without having to worry about losing their job, when they or one of their dependents is sick. The question now is what size the font on the ballot will be for this proposal. Second Judicial District Judge Alan Malott ruled the entire text of the seven-page ordinance must appear on the ballot. He has reserved the right to intervene if the ballot is not printed in a legible font. City Clerk Natalie Howard said there will be magnifiers, tabulators and audible ballots available. There will also be 11 general bond approval questions on the Oct. 3 ballot. In other words, there will be a lot to read up on before entering the voting booth.
Councilors tackled fine-tuning the $530 million FY 2017-2018 budget that Mayor Richard Berry tried unsuccessfully to veto at the last Council meeting. The revisions include not relying on potential savings and revenues to cover operating and other expenses. The tweaks fund at least a 1 percent raise for most city employees. Additionally, there is funding to support 1,000 police officers as well as veteran officer longevity pay. The new and improved version of the budget now heads to Mayor Berry’s administrators for approval.
The revised budget also had some fee increases and some shifting of bond money usage, including the following changes.
It will cost a couple of bucks more to visit the city’s amazing crown jewel known as the BioPark. Councilors approved an additional $2 for admission fees for out-of-state visitors and $1 per visit resident increase. These new admission prices should generate an estimated $644,000 a year that will go into the zoo’s coffers.
It will now cost $100 bucks for folks to apply for a temporary certificate of occupancy for new buildings and $50 for a permanent certificate for such projects. This is estimated to bring in an additional $217,000 per year for use by the city.
Several other small fee increases were approved for senior centers and parks and recreation facilities.
Councilors approved repurposing $1.8 million in bond money to buy more police vehicles. The money was intended to buy a piece of property to store cars taken through the DWI seizure program.
About $1.4 million from the city’s reserves will be diverted into the general fund for one time expenditures.
Another group of citizens were appointed to various city boards and commissions. Tim Sheahan was assigned to the ABQ Volunteers Advisory Board, Sidney Gutierrez now serves on the Balloon Museum Board of Trustees, Kyye Blachly was added to the Youth Advisory Council, Christian Martinez also went to the Youth Advisory Council, Margarett Terpening will serve on the Municipal Golf Advisory Board, Ashley Otero is now on the Urban Enhancement Trust Fund, Tsiporah Nephesh will be a member of the ABQ Volunteers Advisory Board, Stephanie Yara is now a member of the Information Services Committee, Dr. William Kass has been made a member of the Police Oversight Board, and Valerie St. John will also serve on the Police Oversight Board.
Council President Isaac Benton pulled a proposed gas tax increase vote off the table saying ballot space issues are the main reasons. The ballot question had to be approved at this meeting to appear on the Oct. 3 municipal ballot. The proposal asked for an extra 2 cents per gallon from motorists filling up within the city limits. This proposed tax was estimated to generate about $4.8 million in new monies for roadway improvements and other transportation projects.
Most of the public comment centered around the size and type of text to be used for the October ballot question regarding sick leave for part-time employees. Some of those comments included the following statements.
“There is something fundamentally strange for us voters to ask you, who we voted for, to vote intelligently.”
“The mayor blocks our right to vote on the healthy workforce initiative.”
“Invest in human capital.”
“We are concerned about voter suppression.”
“Please stand up for our visually impaired residents.”
“Our employees are our family.”
When Councilors return in August, they will have a full plate waiting for them. Some of the items they will tackle include approving an employee loan program to save city employees about $500,000 a year in predatory payday loans, a resolution directing the mayor and his administration to evaluate the performance of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project, creating a new department to manage the city’s assets and an investigation into the city’s panhandling issues at roadway crossings.