ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Firefighters or a latte?
Local residents are being asked as much in glossy mailings sent out by a coalition of nonprofits, unions and others who want the city of Santa Fe to fix its budget problems with a property tax increase.
“We can worry about fires burning down buildings, leave potholes unfixed and our children unprotected because we’ve cut jobs for firefighters, city workers and police officers. Or, we can close the revenue gap by increasing the City’s property tax by paying just $2 a week,” the flier proclaims.
Its visuals include side-by-side pictures of a chocolate-covered coffee drink and a firetruck, captioned by the statement “$2 can buy you a lot …”
The Coalition to Keep Santa Fe Working was formed over a month ago, at the same time Mayor David Coss and four city councilors announced they supported a measure, dubbed “Keep Santa Fe Working,” to increase local property tax rates by about $1.16 for every $1,000 of assessed value. The tax hike would raise about $4 million a year for the city.
Santa Fe’s elected officials have since publicly stepped back from the idea, switching their support to a short-term solution that involves a $4 million diversion from the city’s wastewater reserves.
Still, coalition members believe the tax could creep back into the council’s good graces when formal budget hearings begin later this week.
There are concerns “about not coming into a crisis point every year at budget time,” said Angela Merkert, executive director of the nonprofit Faith at Work. That agency is a member of the Coalition to Keep Santa Fe Working, which has produced the recent mailings. Other coalition members include Warehouse 21, Open Hands, the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness and Santa Fe Teen Arts Center.
Coss’ former campaign manager, Sandra Wechsler, is also an organizer.
The coalition has raised $20,000 for its campaign, which also includes a radio ad featuring Coss. The money has come entirely from six donors: the American Federation of Teachers; New Mexico Building and Construction Trades Council; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; McCune Foundation; businessman Earl Potter; and the Central Labor Council.
The group doesn’t want to see city services or jobs cut, Merkert said. Service reductions in vulnerable areas such as transportation and libraries would especially hurt lower-income people, she noted.
“I think for the shared well-being of the whole community the property tax can give us a sustainable income that will support city services,” she said. Solutions to the city’s budget woes should be a “shared responsibility,” she added.
— This article appeared on page 27 of the Albuquerque Journal