"They don't care about us" — president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Associate
The City Council’s attempt to give Albuquerque police officers longevity pay increases contingent on the city meeting its quarterly revenue projections is a “joke” and a crude attempt at “playing politics” by the five councilors who voted for it, the head of the city’s police union said Tuesday.
Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, was so upset at the council’s budget vote on Monday night that he urged all cops who are thinking of retiring to do so now.
But Councilor Patrick Davis, who sponsored the measure, said it was the best the city could do considering its poor revenue situation. And he said the police union originally asked for a whopping $15 million in pay raises despite having gotten raises in the past two years.
Giving the police union all it wanted could have resulted in layoffs of other city workers down the road, Davis said.
Willoughby was brutal in his attacks on the councilors.
“Every city police officer considering retirement needs to run because they don’t care about us,” Willoughby said. “They [councilors] don’t care about solving the problem. This is not going to get ratified [by union members]. This is a joke. They should be embarrassed even talking about it.”
The council voted 5-4 Monday to give officers longevity pay of up to $13,000 a year, but only if the city meets its quarterly revenue projections. Under the plan, the city would spend $1 million a quarter on longevity pay.
Councilors Brad Winter, Trudy Jones, Davis, Isaac Benton and Diane Gibson voted for the retention pay package. Councilors Ken Sanchez, Dan Lewis, Klarissa Peña and Don Harris opposed it.
But the problem lies with the city meeting its revenue goals, a situation that is beyond the city’s or the police union’s control.
The metro area has been mired in a stagnant economy for nearly 10 years and has yet to regain all the jobs it lost during the recession. And, for the current fiscal year, the city has fallen short of its projected gross receipts tax revenue.
For the current year, the city originally projected that GRT revenues would come in 2.9 percent higher than last year. Then the projection was lowered to 2.3 percent. And for the first 10 months of the year, those GRT revenues are only 1 percent higher than last year, according to city figures.
GRT money funds 64 percent of the city’s general fund budget.
“The APOA came to us and asked for $15 million in pay raises that would have benefited senior officers more than the rank-and-file, and they did not have a way to pay for it,” Davis said.
“In the two years since I have been on the council, this will have been the third increase for raises and bonuses and longevity to keep retiring officers on the force, and it is working.”
In 2015, the council threw $8 million at APD for raises, retention bonuses and to settle a lawsuit the union had brought against the city.
Davis continued: “Never has the progressive wing of the council and the mayor’s office agreed on so many sort of different strategies to deal with public safety in a comprehensive way, but the APOA has not been a good partner. You can’t do anything nice.”
Davis said that giving officers raises without having the recurring revenue in place would be a disaster that could lead to layoffs of other city employees, especially if the city’s revenue picture doesn’t improve. He likened the situation to former mayor Marty Chavez’s final year in office when he gave large pay raises to police officers and firefighters.
But then the recession hit and incoming Mayor Richard Berry was forced to deal with massive budget deficits. In the end, Berry forced all city workers to take pay cuts in order to close the budget gap and prevent layoffs, Davis said.
Willoughby said that Berry’s administration and councilors need to be honest with city residents about their priorities.
“If they were honest they would tell the public that this [public safety] is not a priority,” Willoughby said. “They don’t care about increased crime and they don’t care about staffing the police department properly.”
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