Mayor Richard Berry’s “ABQ: The Plan” capital initiative survived a challenge from City Council Democrats on Monday and will get an additional $3 million in next year’s operating budget.
The council voted along party lines to defeat an amendment proposed by Ken Sanchez, who wanted to take $100,000 from “The Plan” and use it to pay for firefighters to attend career-advancement training. It failed on a 6-3 vote, with fellow Democrats Isaac Benton and Rey Garduño voting in favor.
Fire Chief James Breen said the $100,000 wouldn’t be enough to do what Sanchez intended and that firefighters are expected to attend some training off duty.
In any case, Councilor Don Harris said the mayor’s $3 million capital request was “pretty modest” in the overall context of a $480 million general fund budget.
“It’s always easy to throw stones” or “make fun” of capital projects before they’re built, Harris said.
Berry’s “ABQ: The Plan” aims to invest more of the city’s money in capital projects rather than in growing the operating budget. It’s a reversal of a trend from before he took office, when the city shrunk the amount of money available for roads, parks and other capital needs, using it instead to prop up the basic city operations.
The city hasn’t decided yet what projects would be funded with the $3 million approved Monday.
The council also voted along party lines to defeat an amendment proposed by Benton, who wanted to take $800,000 out of the police budget to fund a new paramedic rescue unit for the Huning Highlands area and central part of the city.
The Police Department didn’t need the money, Benton said, because the police force is smaller than what is budgeted every year. The budget typically has funding for 1,100 officers, though the city doesn’t actually employ that many.
The amendment failed after the administration said it had already factored in the savings from unfilled officer positions.
Despite disagreement over the amendments, the budget passed with plenty of praise for Brad Winter, who crafted a series of amendments based on several councilors’ and the mayor’s priorities.
Berry said he was happy with the council’s action.
“It is good for Albuquerque when we all work together for fiscal responsibility and value for taxpayers,” he said in a written statement.