Council Bite: Budget Wounds

Budget Wounds

Carolyn Carlson
3 min read
( Jeff Belmonte )
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A standing-room-only crowd showed up to the Monday, May 24 meeting to remind the Council that cuts are losses to essential services for real people.

Mayor Berry sent down a budget, and Councilors Ken Sanchez and Don Harris proposed a floor substitute at this meeting, altering the mayor’s proposed cuts. With less contentious debate among the councilors than expected, they passed
a $455 million operating budget on a 6-3 vote, balancing a $66 million shortfall.

“No matter what we do, it is going to be difficult for families as we go through the next fiscal year,” Council President Sanchez said.

The substitute councilors sent to the mayor’s desk includes:

• An across-the-board shaving of all city-funded social services. Several organizations that work with
the homeless would not be cut due to the increasing need.

Charter schools would lose all their after-school program funding.

• The Downtown teen center
Warehouse 508 took a big hit. Councilors said they will look for ways to augment the center’s funding.

• The high school retention program would hemorrhage hundreds of thousands.

• Some money was put back into the budget for the
New Mexico Symphony Orchestra.

• City workers making less than $30,000 a year would endure no pay cuts. Employees making more than $30,000 would have to take unpaid holidays, making their cuts between 2.27 percent to 3.1 percent. Those making more than $100,000 would take a cut close to 4 percent. All of the city employees would pay more for health insurance.

• The mayor and Council would take a 5 percent cut in their salaries as well.

• All of the city residents would pay a couple of bucks more a month for trash pickup and for trash deposited at the city’s dumps.

Berry has said he does not want to see a budget from the Council with reductions in city services, a raise in taxes or a diversion of money from construction projects. Berry said he wants money in the budget for about
90 vacant jobs that include animal handlers, emergency dispatchers and bus drivers.

If Berry pull outs his veto pen to make drastic changes, then the Council already has the six of nine council votes required to override a mayoral veto. Councilors Sanchez, Harris, Isaac Benton, Debbie O’Malley, Rey Garduño and Trudy Jones joined together from both sides of the political aisle to support this substitute. Councilors Dan Lewis, Brad Winter and Michael Cook voted against it, saying they wanted to see more money trimmed.
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