Mayor Berry proposes budget increase for APD

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — With the results pending for a federal probe of Albuquerque Police officer-involved shootings, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry is asking for more police money in the city’s next budget.

The mayor says the spike in APD funding will help with accountability.

His latest budget proposal, released Tuesday, calls for about $3 million more to be spent on the police department starting in fiscal year 2015, which begins in July 2014.

However, some councilors wonder if the money is going in the right places.

Mayor Berry’s proposed $3 million increase in APD spending is being coupled with cost savings, principally for a proposed move to not fill about 50 open positions within the department.

The proposal includes $3 million for more than 60 new police cars, $1.3 million to upgrade the emergency dispatch radio system, also more than $700,000 to fund 11 new positions in the department.

Mayor Berry says most of those positions will be related to public records requests.

“The request for records for public records has just grown and grown and grown,” said Mayor Berry.

Another position would address the fallout from the death of 9-year-old Omaree Varela, the Albuquerque boy who was allegedly kicked to death by his mother.

“A full-time child abuse liaison with the Albuquerque Police Department. This individual will complement our efforts to establish a child abuse prevention task force and provide enhanced communication between the police and other child protective service agencies,” said Mayor Berry.

But one of the biggest changes is an additional $1 million for new officer training, as results are expected soon in the Department of Justice’s sweeping investigation into APD’s culture and use of force.

“This $1 million is also on a proactive basis,” said Mayor Berry.

The mayor says the $1 million will go to mental illness and de-escalation training. He says it represents about $10,000 per officer. Berry says any extra will go toward a savings account for DOJ related reforms.

“If that entire $1 million isn’t spent, that could be rolled over into next year. If it’s all spent, we will be certainly addressing that in next year’s budget as well,” said Mayor Berry. “We thought that would be a great place to not just get a start, but put a very robust funding together to address that issue.”

However, Councilor Ken Sanchez believes the investment is not enough.

“I personally do not believe it’s adequate,” he said.

Sanchez says he still wants to meet with experts to talk about mental health related training, however, he says he has a feeling much more money is needed to address the issue.

“With the severity of the problems that we are confronting, I think that numbers probably going to be in the range of $2-$3 million,” said Sanchez.

Mayor Berry has also budgeted enough money to give police employees up to a 4 percent raise and for more city employees to get up to a 1 percent raise.

The mayor’s budget isn’t all about police, though. In all, the proposal accounts for $496 million worth of spending in the general fund, an estimated $16 million or about 3 percent more than the FY 2014 budget.

The budget proposal calls for no new taxes and no pay cuts. However, residents may see a couple increases. The mayor is asking for an additional $2.09 per month worth of charges to go on residents solid waste bills. The mayor says $0.75 of that would go to city median upkeep. The other $1.34 would go toward the design and construction of a new solid waste transfer station in Albuquerque. Berry estimates that if built, the transfer station could save the city millions of dollars a year in fuel costs.

Mayor Berry is also proposing a $1 parking increase at the Albuquerque Sunport. He says that money would be used to offset an expected decline in revenue when Southwest Airlines is expected to cut back service in 2014 due to the expiration of a Federal Government’s regulation that required flights to land in neighboring states.

“We expect to have about a 10 to 12 percent drop in airplane traffic at the Albuquerque Sunport,” said Mayor Berry.

To view a copy of Mayor Berry’s proposed FY 2015 budget, click here.

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