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City employees would get a 5% pay hike and some would also get a one-time incentive worth up to $2,000 under the annual budget plan the Albuquerque City Council will consider Monday night.
That’s higher than the 2% cost-of-living adjustment Mayor Tim Keller had pitched for the fiscal year that begins July 1 – an extra bump made possible by deleting other components of Keller’s budget proposal.
For example, the City Council’s version of the budget would cut certain jobs across city government, including some security officer positions, that have been vacant for extended periods. Council budget chairwoman Brook Bassan said it makes sense to defund jobs that have gone unfilled for, in some cases, more than 700 days, but that officials can always reconsider the need later in the year.
The council’s current budget plan – which moved through committee Thursday, but will likely undergo further amendments before a final vote – also eliminates the Keller administration’s planned $702,000 cannabis services division. To be housed within the city’s Environmental Health Department, the division would have had staff dedicated to various cannabis inspections, though some councilors had questioned the scope and necessity, given the state’s regulation of the industry. Bassan said it did not seem like a fully formed idea.
“We still have code enforcement (within the city), we still have other Environmental Health inspectors,” Bassan said. “How about while you develop a plan, we don’t fund a new program (when) we don’t know what it’s going to look like?”
The council’s standing 2023 budget proposal also cuts city sponsorship funding for some community events.
It also removes two of the revenue-related proposals contained in Keller’s proposed budget: one to charge a $20 “surrender” fee when owners take their pets to city animal shelters, and another that would have raised the coffee price at city senior centers to 50 cents from the current 30 cents. Under an amendment sponsored by Councilor Pat Davis, the senior centers will provide coffee for free.
Lawrence Rael, the city’s acting chief administrative officer and the highest-ranking member of Keller’s administration, questioned some of the council’s changes – including position cuts in security and parks – but said he thought there still was time to satisfy everybody.
“For the most part, this budget is a good budget,” Rael said during the council’s budget committee meeting. “There are some minor tweaks we need to do.”