Albuquerque city councilors weigh budget shortfall, employee pay hikes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque’s budget picture isn’t getting any prettier as a new forecast shows the city is still millions of dollars in the red.

Meanwhile, city councilors are anticipating some big cuts while also having to consider some pay hikes in the coming weeks.

The City of Albuquerque’s latest “first quarter revenue estimates” report shows the city is about $4.5 million short of projections made in April 2017 under former Mayor Richard Berry’s administration.

READ: CABQ’s quarter one 2018 revenue forecast.

Several city councilors got a look at the report Monday during a council “Finance and Government Operations Committee” meeting.

“We have some major challenges ahead of us,” said Albuquerque City Councilor Ken Sanchez, in light of the revenue report.

In the next few weeks, Sanchez expects city administrators will have to begin to address the city’s current fiscal year budget deficit.

“I think that we are in a crisis situation with our budget,” said Sanchez, who says the city may be facing up to a $6.9 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year, ending in July 2018.

Similarly, the city faced a multi-million dollar deficit when Mayor Richard Berry first took office. That administration chose to cut employee wages in response to the budget problems.

Sanchez says he doesn’t want to see employee wage cuts this time around.

“I do not want to see that happen again, because I mean, the employees suffered and their families suffered and our economy suffered at the same time, so we just need to be as frugal as we possibly can in moving forward during this next fiscal year,” said Sanchez.

Another city councilor, Diane Gibson, is also concerned about the city’s latest budget picture.

“My concern is that we’re not meeting (projections), just like we didn’t meet it last year,” said Gibson. “At least in the past two or three years we’ve budgeted for a three percent rate of growth in our gross receipts, and we have not met that.”

Gibson shared her concerns Monday about the latest budget projection, commenting on city employee wage hike legislation now heading to the full city council for a vote.

“I think we need to take a conservative approach to our budget,” said Councilor Diane Gibson of the budget problem the city is facing.

Councilors will soon have to take a vote on a potential 1.5 percent pay increase for the city’s union firefighters.

READ: Proposed union firefighters pay raise CABQ resolution

According to the proposed legislation, the nearly $900,000 to pay for the proposed raise this budget cycle would come from several social service programs the city helps pay for, as well as funding from Mayor Berry’s “ABQ The Plan” initiative.

Councilor Diane Gibson sees the city’s money issues as a growing concern.

“I would love to be able to give everybody raise, good healthy raises, but we have to be realistic,” said Gibson.

Councilors could vote on those proposed firefighter wage hikes at their next meeting. Meanwhile, Mayor Tim Keller’s administration hasn’t said yet what they’re looking to cut in order to absorb the budget deficit.

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