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City Council approves $1.1 billion budget

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque’s first billion-dollar budget cleared the City Council on Monday night, but not before the councilors put their own stamp on the plan.

The council ultimately shifted about $3 million in expenditures within the $1.1 billion fiscal year 2020 plan proposed last month by Mayor Tim Keller. That includes reallocating $1 million of the $2 million the mayor planned for Local Economic Development Act funding.

But the council’s budget maintains the same spending level for the Albuquerque Police Department and uses $4 million from outside the general fund to pay for economic development efforts at the city’s two airports.

Councilor Pat Davis said the council’s budget bill – which he introduced with Isaac Benton, Klarissa Pena and Ken Sanchez – was not markedly different from Keller’s, in that it “protected” the public safety and economic development priorities.

Keller agreed, issuing a statement after the vote saying the budget “doubles down” on efforts to reduce crime and homelessness, and boost the economy.

“We are working together to continue getting a handle on our biggest challenges,” he said of the council.

But the council did put its mark on the spending plan for the year that begins July 1.

The budget formalized councilors’ plans to devote new bicycle police officers to the Central Avenue corridor, where residents and businesses have raised concerns about crime. Benton, Davis, Pena and Sanchez earlier this month announced their intention to station eight new bike cops along the Albuquerque Rapid Transit route on Central, designating them from the 53 new police positions already funded in Keller’s budget.

Councilor Don Harris on Monday successfully proposed an amendment to expand the coverage area eastward on Central to Tramway, and boost the number to 10 officers.

Brad Winter bristled a little at the notion of pumping extra resources into a single part of the city.

“I know we’ve got a problem on Central and a big problem, and we’re trying to fight that, but are we sacrificing the rest of the city for Central?” he said.

But Davis defended the initiative, saying it was created in collaboration with neighborhood association and merchant groups.

Previously “we’ve just been hiring cops to answer calls,” Davis said after the meeting. “This is the first budget where we deliberately developed a community policing initiative, took it through the process and funded it. That’s a turning point.”

Elsewhere in the budget, the council took away $859,000 of Keller’s planned investment in park security, shade structures and playgrounds, but added money to other areas. That includes $433,500 for library automation, $195,000 for a centralized social services helpline and $108,500 for Balloon Museum exhibits.

The City Council also pulled funding for several city government jobs that are currently vacant and instead plugged the dollars into new jobs.

Gone, for example, are an office assistant in Animal Welfare and three park maintenance workers. But the council’s budget added two positions in planning and poured $50,000 into raises for the Municipal Development Department’s engineers.

Councilor Trudy Jones, who requested the new planning roles, said it made sense to re allocate money that has been going to jobs without workers.

“We make allowances for them when we could be using money for things we need today,” she said.

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