City council to vote on budget, pay raises

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Albuquerque city councilors have a full plate Monday night.

From issues with the Police Oversight Commission to how future police chiefs should be selected, big decisions are on the agenda. But the main course is the budget.

Councilors are expected to vote on the budget Monday night and so far one of the biggest sticking points is pay raises for city employees. Councilors want a much larger raise than the mayor has proposed.

“I think it’s insulting to the employees of the city,” Council President Ken Sanchez said.

Mayor Richard Berry proposed a one percent for city workers in his budget six weeks ago. Now, it appears he could change his position.

“Revenue projections have gotten a little bit better since we put our original budget down April 1,” Mayor Berry said.

With the City Council expected to vote on that $600 million budget Monday, Council President Ken Sanchez says with the tweaks they have made, it won’t be one percent.

“I think it benefits the employees,” Sanchez said. “They will get a three percent increase.”

That three percent would go to most city workers and for cops it would be five percent.

“I call it a restitution of pay because basically they took a 2.3 percent decrease four years ago and haven’t seen a raise,” Sanchez said.

Mayor Berry says the changes sound okay, but he wants to see what else the council proposes for the budget before saying too much.

“It all comes back to taking the resources that we have, valuing our employees but also valuing the folks that pay the taxes,” Mayor Berry said.

The mayor has come under fire from some city councilors after proposing steep pay raises for some of his staffers.

Sanchez is also fired up at what he calls a “huge lack of communication” between Mayor Berry and councilors on the budget.

“Leadership starts on the 11th floor and we must, especially with the crisis that we are in, begin and start to communicate,” Sanchez said.

But Mayor Berry says he has been involved.

“I’d just invite Councilor Sanchez to come on up,” Mayor Berry says. “The doors always open and we’re always happy to have a conversation.”

The council budget will likely hit the mayor’s desk after Monday night.

“I think it’s fair, it’s equitable and it’s a solid budget and I hope that Mayor Berry would not veto this budget,” Sanchez said.

Outside of the pay raise talks, another budget item is setting aside money for Department of Justice reforms for the Albuquerque Police Department.

The mayor had originally set aside $1 million. Councilors are looking to add another $1 million to that and it is something the mayor says he supports.

City Councilors are also expected to vote on changing the ways future police chiefs are selected. One would require council input and approval and the other would make the chief’s job an elected position.

If passed by the council, both resolutions would go for a public vote in the November election.

Part of the city’s budget proposal also includes $200,000 to help fund the Rio Grande High School swimming pool.

The pool, which was used by students and the community, was deteriorating so it was demolished.

The county and state have put in most of the $3 million to replace it. They were counting on Albuquerque Public Schools to pitch in $400,000 to get it done.

The school board said “no,” saying the funding would have taken money away from classrooms. But, Monday the school announced it will pitch in $200,000 for the pool with money coming from the district’s operational budget.

The City Council will decide Monday  if it will give the remaining $200,000.

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