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No Major Gap For Santa Fe Budget

SANTA FE, N.M. — As budget planning begins for the next fiscal year, the outlook for Santa Fe is looking relatively rosy.

Gross receipts tax collections are up and, for the first time in several years, city officials don’t appear to be facing a gaping budget deficit.

In fact, the Santa Fe City Council is considering pay raises for employees and adding workers in areas such as public safety and parks.

“There’s a lot of factors we have to consider. There’s a global economy, so many things going on in the world and the nation today, that we need to be cautious. But I think we also have to be optimistic,” City Councilor and Finance Committee Chairman Carmichael Dominguez said.

So far this fiscal year, the city has taken in about $79.4 million in gross receipts tax revenue, more than 6 percent higher than projections. Collections are currently about 5 percent higher, year-to-date, than in the last fiscal year, though 5.5 percent lower than fiscal year 2007-2008, a relatively boom time economically.

The fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30, and the council needs to have a budget approved by late May. Budget hearings started last week and will run through April and May. A budget hearing is scheduled for April 30.

The council needs to find $3.4 million to plug a hole created last year by using reserves and a diverted gross receipts tax revenue stream to fill a $9 million budget deficit. The city will also have to add $150,000 to its payroll to adjust for an increase to the minimum wage this year.

However, City Manager Robert Romero said he expects this year’s higher-than-anticipated gross receipts tax revenue to cover the amount.

Overall, there will likely be little change from last year’s roughly $332 million budget, according to city officials.

Some new general fund expenses the council could choose to take on in fiscal year 2012-2013 include:

♦ A 1 percent raise for all city employees at a cost of $540,000 or a 2 percent raise for $1.08 million.

Dominguez likes the idea of a raise, and said the city needs to “reinvest in our human capital because city staff has been under a lot of duress … at some point it impacts the public.”

“It’s such a small increment, and we’ve got a really good finance department and city manager who are holding people accountable and really making sure we do things the way we should, being as efficient as we can,” Dominguez said.

♦ A Police Department incentive that would give officers who chose to live in Santa Fe a 15 percent pay increase. The city would have to set aside around $600,000.

♦ Hiring eight civilian Police Department employees who could take on jobs now done by police officers, such as the DWI forfeiture and camera enforcement programs. The idea is “if officers aren’t doing those jobs, they could do more classic police work,” Romero said.

♦ Hiring eight new firefighters for $550,000; three new streets workers for $105,000; or five new parks workers for $175,000.

♦ Adding money into the city’s diminishing employee health insurance fund.

♦ Buying five new cars for $570,000.

“Any of these, they don’t have to happen, but I’m bringing them out. If the council chose to do more, this is how they could do it,” Romero said.