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Council deadlocks on raise for firefighters

City councilors deadlocked during Monday night’s meeting over legislation that would have provided a 1.5 percent raise for Albuquerque’s fire union employees.

Council President Ken Sanchez, a cosponsor of the legislation, and Councilors Pat Davis, Klarissa Peña and Cynthia Borrego voted in favor of the resolution.

Councilors Trudy Jones, Diane Gibson, Isaac Benton and Brad Winter voted against the resolution.

Councilor Don Harris, the other cosponsor, was absent from the vote due to illness.

A 3 percent increase in pay was intended for fire union employees for the 2018 fiscal year, which began in July 2017.

Due to a budget crunch, councilors and the union reached an understanding to provide a 1.5 percent increase and agreed to revisit the issue midyear and approve another 1.5 percent increase if gross receipts tax revenues improved.

“It was a tough budget to go through but the sort of oral agreement was that if the GRT tracked at 3 percent that we would revisit another raise increase for fire, and it hasn’t. In fact, it’s more like 1.7 percent, which has helped make the difference of the $25 million structural deficit,” Gibson said during Monday’s meeting. “The 1.5 percent shouldn’t even be on the table right now.”

Harris said he was surprised the measure died, since an increase to the city’s gross receipts tax rate was passed.

“I thought once we enhanced revenue, that issue would have taken care of itself but I was mistaken,” Harris said.

Harris said the council is working on coming up with a different path toward providing the raise that could come up as soon as later this month.

Sanchez said six votes would be needed to bring the resolution back up for immediate action at the next meeting.

“We have been diligently working with City Council to invest in recruitment and retention initiatives to secure safe minimum staffing levels,” said International Association of Fire Fighters Local 244 President Diego Arencón via email. “Our mutual goal is to ultimately improve response times to protect life and property.”

The union represents 640 Albuquerque firefighters.