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Berry Vetoes Budget, But Has New Deal Ready

Berry Vetoes Budget, But Has New Deal Ready

Berry And Councilors Patrick Davis And Brad Winter Have New Deal

Keeps Status Quo

Some Cop Retention Bonuses Get Axed

All city employees would get a 1 percent pay raise this year under a budget compromise hammered out by Mayor Richard Berry and two city councilors, but the proposal would cut anywhere from $1.6 to $4 million for police officer retention bonuses.

In addition, the deal reached by Berry and councilors Patrick Davis and Brad Winter would restore about half of the $3 million in cuts to community groups that Berry’s original budget contained.

Berry announced the new budget deal on Thursday when he vetoed the budget that the City Council had passed earlier this month.

That budget came under fire from the police officers union because it made the extra money for police retention bonuses contingent on the city meeting its revenue projections. Critics said that for the current fiscal year, the city has not reached its increased revenue estimates of 2.9 percent. Instead, gross receipts tax revenues for the first 10 months of the year have grown by only 1 percent.

The budget compromise, which will be introduced at Monday night’s council meeting, basically maintains the status quo of the current year’s $529 million general fund budget, Davis told ABQ Free Press.

Exactly how much retention bonus money the police will lose under the new proposed budget is unclear. Davis said the budget will slash $1.6 million from the bonus program. But Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said the new budget proposal removes $4 million from the program.

At issue is how the money was counted in the recently-passed budget.

Davis said the council intended to add $1.6 million to the $2.4 million it had approved for retention bonuses in the previous budget year, FY 2017.

But Willoughby said the council had actually approved an additional $4 million for retention bonuses for FY 2018, all on top of the $2.4 million in recurring money the council had included in the FY 17 budget.

Willoughby ripped the new proposal.

“The status quo is typical Albuquerque and typical R.J. Berry and typical of the mistakes that have been made in the last seven years,” Willoughby said. “At the end of the day, the compromise looks like the mayor’s original budget; it does not speak to the crime problem in Albuquerque.”

Willoughby said that the city had 10 homicides in May, and that so far this year, there have been 25 murders. He said that is putting the city on track for a record number of murders.

Davis said that the budget the council passed earlier this month was “totally irresponsible” because it relied on furloughs, a hiring freeze and possible layoffs to fund the police longevity bonuses.

“It was totally irresponsible for folks [councilors] running [for reelection] to throw money at police in order to get a headline,” Davis said. “Councilor Winter and I and the mayor had to work across party lines to find a responsible way to fund the city.”

In his veto message, Berry said the budget passed by the council would leave the city’s general fund “structurally imbalanced.”

Berry added: “The bill reduces APD’s budget by $2.4 million and reserves funding for a ‘new’ longevity program leaving the Administration in a precarious position with regard to continuing the existing longevity program already in place.

“The bill appropriates $3 million in revenues we do not currently have to pay for one-time programs and pro0jects. It assumes we can pay for them by imposing a 4-month hiring freeze. This leaves the Administration with little to no flexibility to manage day-to-day operations that are important to our constituents.”

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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