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City Council adds almost $1M for children’s programs to budget

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque city councilors on Monday approved a nearly $1 million budget amendment for children’s programs in the fiscal 2019 budget.

The budget amendment includes funding for a middle school soccer league, after-school clubs and at-risk youth summer hires through the Family and Community Services Department, as well as new programs through the Cultural Services and the Parks and Recreation departments.

The vote was 8-1 with Councilor Diane Gibson casting the lone vote in opposition to the amendment, which also took away $200,000 for the Safe City Strike Force board-ups and demolition program she was supporting.

The Committee of the Whole, which consists of all nine councilors acting as a committee, which by city ordinance considers the budget proposed by the mayor, originally declined to fund the programs when they submitted their version of the budget Thursday, citing a lack of planning time to institute those new programs.

After considering other committee-submitted amendments, the council unanimously approved the 2019 operating budget of around $577 million in general fund appropriations. The total budget, including enterprise funds, will approach $1 billion.

The approved budget retains Mayor Tim Keller’s funding proposals for public safety.

Spending in the budget includes:

• About $2 million for recruiting new officers for the next fiscal year.

• $2.3 million for compliance with a settlement agreement reached between the city and the Department of Justice regarding police use of force.

• $1.9 million to address a backlog of more than 4,000 untested rape kits.

• $1.8 million for the Property Crime Reduction program.

• $15 million in affordable housing contracts.

• $8.2 million in homeless services.

• $5.7 million in mental health and substance abuse contracts.

• $18.2 million for homeless and behavioral health programs.

Councilor Ken Sanchez said the city still maintains a goal of hiring more police officers with funding placed on reserve in the budget.

“We budgeted for 1,040 officers,” Sanchez told fellow councilors. “I know it’s going to be difficult to obtain that number during this upcoming fiscal year, but I believe the public is demanding that we increase those numbers. I think it’s going to be paramount that the most important issue facing the city today is public safety. If we have a safe city, we will have a prosperous city.”

The Albuquerque Police Department now has about 850 officers.

Keller said when he submitted his proposed budget that his goal was to double the participation in before- and after-school and summer programs for children.

“City Council stepped up and passed the resources for our top priorities – public safety, opportunities for our kids and local jobs,” Keller said in a statement late Monday. “Tonight, we came together as one Albuquerque to help make our community more safe, innovative and inclusive.”

The council’s budget proposal added about $1.5 million in additional public safety spending, including $125,000 for Safe City Strike Force code enforcement specialists, $360,000 for Albuquerque Street Connect, $300,000 in additional funding for Safe City Strike Force board-ups and demolitions, $225,000 for Heading Home vouchers, $114,000 for mobile cameras for parks security, $100,000 for contractual parks security and $75,000 to begin land banking for vacant and abandoned buildings.

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