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Campus debt, upkeep costs Santa Fe some $4M per year

SANTA FE – Keeping the 64 acres of city-owned property most recently occupied by the Santa Fe University of Art and Design in good shape while the city works to find tenants is costing the city more than $4 million a year.

That’s one take away from Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting at which the five-member City Council committee unanimously approved a budget adjustment of $961,000 to pay expenses at what now is being called the Midtown Campus through the end of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

After the meeting, Brad Fluetsch, the city’s financial planning and reporting officer, said next fiscal year’s budget to maintain the property will likely exceed $2 million.

“At least,” he said.

Meanwhile, the city is continuing to pay about $2.22 million annually in debt service payments on the property and will do so for the next 17 years – unless the state loan is refinanced. The property isn’t scheduled to be paid off until June 2036.

While the city agreed to pay $19.5 million in 2009 for 91 acres that included the campus after the College of Santa Fe folded, the city borrowed $29.6 million from the New Mexico Finance Authority to make the purchase and pay for other improvements.

SFUAD’s lease payments used to be enough to cover the city’s annual debt service, but that ended in June last year when the university closed and vacated the property.

Since then, a city ad hoc steering committee recommended that the city hire a special project administrator to oversee the property, procure maintenance and security services, and decommission some buildings to prevent damage from plumbing, leaky roofs and mold.

Most of the $961,000 – $500,000 – would be allocated for repair and maintenance of buildings. Another $168,000 would be put toward security, alarm and property management; $120,000 would cover costs for decommissioning buildings; $90,000 would pay for salaries; and $60,000 would fund building assessments. The remaining $23,000 would go toward grounds maintenance and sold waste removal.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the committee approved $179,000 to be spent on the first round of retention incentive payments to police officers.

Approximately 130 officers are eligible for the retention bonuses that would pay them up to $4,700 if they stay on through June. The police union initially asked for $15,000 per officer, saying the police force was being depleted by the Albuquerque Police Department’s recruiting efforts, but accepted the city’s lower offer with a vote earlier this month.

Mayor Alan Webber called it a “good faith” offer in advance of negotiations with the police union. Its current collective bargaining agreement with the city is set to expire June 30.

Both budget adjustment approvals for the Midtown campus and police officer retention pay are up for final approval at tonight’s City Council meeting.

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