Carla Vigil is losing sleep at night.

It may not be the only thing she loses.

A parking enforcement officer with the city of Santa Fe, Vigil is bracing for a huge pay cut as Mayor Alan Webber and his administration try to figure out how to close an estimated $46 million budget gap in the fiscal year ending June 30 after a brutal economic shock wave from the novel coronavirus.

“I’m worried about my son’s future and what’s life going to be like during and after this pandemic,” said Vigil, a single mother who has been told to expect a furlough of 16 hours a week. “I’ve worked so long to have this stability to provide a better life for my son, Santiago, and now there’s an uncertainty that makes me sick to my stomach.”

The uncertainty extends to City Hall, which is proposing a series of cost-cutting measures to fill a deficit that is only a “guesstimate” at this point. Gross receipts tax revenue accounts for about 70 percent of the city’s general fund budget, which pays for day-to-day operations. But since disbursements from the state lag by two months, the city is, as one official put it privately, “flying this plane while we build it.”

The belt-tightening includes furloughs for everyone but front-line public safety employees. The furloughs, temporary for now, are projected to save $1.43 million, or just 3 percent of the gap the city needs to close over the next two months. Though the savings from the furloughs would be small, relatively speaking, the reduction in hours and how they would be divvied up among the workforce is turning out to be one of the bigger headaches for the mayor, who has enjoyed a fairly cushy relationship with city employees until now.

But that may be changing.

Union calls for more equity in cuts

“We’re not happy with the lies the mayor keeps putting in the paper,” said Gilbert Baca, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 18, the union that represents nearly 700 of the city’s estimated 1,332 employees.

Baca said he disputes the mayor’s assertion that “everyone is being asked to sacrifice.”

“We had a plan, and our plan was for management to take a bigger cut,” he said, adding high-level employees make much more money and could shoulder a bigger financial burden.

Under the mayor’s proposed furlough plan, each AFSCME member will be furloughed. But some employees will see a reduction of four hours a week while others, such as Vigil, will be furloughed for 16 hours. The imbalance is creating animosity not just toward the Webber administration but within the workforce because some employees will take a bigger hit than others.

In a statement late Friday, the city said employees whose workplaces are closed or whose functions have ceased amid the pandemic are facing the bigger furloughs.

“The mayor, city manager, and human resources team worked closely with unions and departments to identify positions that either cannot work because their facility is closed … or are unable to work at full capacity from home,” the city said. “We cannot spend money we don’t have on jobs that don’t currently exist.”

The union has been distributing a flyer that it says shows the financial disparity under the mayor’s plan. The flyer, widely shared on social media, compares the “top paid” city employee to the lowest. City Manager Jarel LaPan Hill is the highest-paid city employee with an annual salary of $170,000 a year. She would get a 10 percent pay cut with a four-hour-per-week furlough, which would bring her salary, if the furlough covered an entire year, to $153,000. Meanwhile, a city employee at the bottom of the pay scale who earns about $25,200 a year would take a 40 percent pay cut with a 16-hour-per-week furlough, bringing that salary to about $15,100.

“It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself,” the flyer states.

At least two city councilors — Roman “Tiger” Abeyta and Carol Romero-Wirth — have volunteered to take the equivalent of a four-hour-per-week furlough from their biweekly paychecks. City councilors are paid about $39,100 a year.

“While I know this is not a large sum of money, I feel that it is important in my role as [chairman of the Finance Committee], that I have a biweekly reminder of what our city employees are going through,” Abeyta wrote in a letter to the editor.

Webber, who is paid about $110,000 a year, said he’s imposing a 30 percent pay cut on himself.

Baca described the mayor’s decision to forgo part of his salary as a publicity stunt.

“He’s a wealthy man,” he said. “He should’ve given up his whole salary during this whole crisis.”

Inflicting the least amount of pain?

During one of his daily Facebook webcasts last week, Webber said the city tried to develop a plan “to protect all of our workers.”

“Rather than laying people off, we’ve approached this with a proposal for furloughs,” he said.

The proposed furloughs preserve jobs, the mayor said.

The decision to hand out four-hour furloughs versus 16 hours was “based entirely on workload, on whether their buildings or functions have been closed down,” said Webber, who cited parking enforcement officers as an example.

“We’ve bagged all of our parking meters. We don’t want people having to pay parking when they come downtown or to the Railyard,” he said. “So we’re no longer issuing parking tickets, but we have people on payroll who we’re paying for our parking meter team. They did nothing wrong. They are not bad employees. They are great employees. But their function has been effectively eliminated because of the coronavirus, so we’ve had to go to a temporary furlough to get our budget in place.”

Baca acknowledged some employees’ jobs are essentially rendered useless amid the shutdown. But he said the city could offer those employees work in other vacant positions, such as streets or parks and recreation, giving at least a portion of those facing the biggest furloughs the opportunity to make up their lost hours.

“I recommended that to the mayor and his team, but they never gave me an answer,” he said. “Some are going to say, ‘No. I’d rather be home.’ … But some of them have already expressed to me, ‘I’ll go work here, and I’ll go work there.’ And it doesn’t take much to be a helper. You learn as you go. We all started there.”

In its Friday statement, the city said employees who work at a facility that has been closed “may be transitioned to perform other job duties” within city government.



“All of our economic analysis tells us there will very likely be more sacrifice required from all of us going forward,” the city said.

But Baca said decisions by the administration lack creativity. For example, he said, parks and recreation employees could take some services, such as yoga classes, outside while still following social-distancing rules. He also criticized the city for bagging the parking meters.

“Parking could still be bringing in revenue,” he said.

Other cost-cutting measures, which the City Council will consider Wednesday, include a hiring freeze on nonessential personnel and a spending freeze that will generate about $25 million in savings. The city also let 41 temporary workers go.

If approved by the council, the furloughs would go into effect May 6.

City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler said she believes furloughs are necessary, but she’s not in favor of requiring the lowest-paid employees to take the “brunt” of the highest cuts.

“That is unconscionable,” she said. “It’s a no-brainer that cost savings would accrue faster from employees with higher hourly salaries.”

At last week’s Finance Committee meeting, Abeyta, the chairman, said he didn’t think the proposed furloughs “went far enough.”

Vigil Coppler said it’s the lowest-paid employees who deliver a majority of the necessary services to residents.

“These decisions were made and given to employees without a plan communicated to the City Council, even after asking for the plan many times,” she said. “The City Council has policymaking authority, but it seems often ignored.”

The city said swift action is required and that any delays could make the situation worse.

“If the governing body does not approve the plan [Wednesday], then a new plan will need to be [publicly] noticed and approved,” the city said. “In order to provide the savings anticipated in the current plan, a new plan would require deeper cuts in a shorter period of time.”

On his webcast last week, Webber said the cost-cutting plan developed by his administration likely will require more sacrifice. While the city hopes to seek federal aid and likely will tap into at least a portion of its $16 million rainy day fund, the plan identifies only about $29.6 million in savings, which still leaves a projected $16.4 million gap.

“We are required to make some hard decisions, to face the brutal facts of life, and these furloughs — temporary though they are — will begin the process of getting us toward a balanced budget,” Webber said.

“Now I want to be absolutely clear: These furloughs are necessary [but] they’re not sufficient,” Webber added. “They are not going to get the job done. But we decided as a strategy not to take one huge cut that would inflict a huge amount of pain but rather to take small incremental steps to get us to the … $46 million savings.”

A longtime city employee who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation said in a statement the furloughs will cause a “huge hardship” on her family.

“As I sit here writing this, I am literally in tears trying to figure how I am going to explain to my kids what struggles we will face these next few months,” the employee wrote. “As a parent, nobody ever wants to have a conversation like this with their children. We want to protect and provide to our children as much as we can.”

The employee, who is a single parent, questioned the fairness of the furloughs.

“Why are some given the max of 16 hours a week and others in HR and Finance given the minimum of four hours?” she asked.

When the city last implemented furloughs in 2018, the employee said the entire workforce was given the same amount.

“At one point, we were all part of a shared community working for the city, and now we aren’t and won’t ever be in my personal opinion,” the employee wrote. “The ending question is: Why couldn’t the burden of the furloughs been shared equally across the board, like a family is supposed to do.”

The proposed furloughs come as the City Council also considers raising copays or deductibles in employees’ health insurance plans.

In the throes of a financial crisis

City officials have said the pandemic is unprecedented, requiring actions unlike any before.

In a presentation to the city Finance Committee last week, Finance Director Mary McCoy provided the number of unemployment claims in New Mexico from the first week of March to the second week of April.

Statewide, unemployment claims for the week ending March 7 totaled 659, including 39 in Santa Fe County. For the week ending March 28, the number had jumped to nearly 28,000 claims across New Mexico. Santa Fe County accounted for about 10 percent of the claims.

“The statewide weekly high during the last recession was just over 3,000 initial claims a week for the entire state,” McCoy told the committee. “So we can see how unprecedented the current crisis is that we are in and how severely this is impacting our community.”

In a statement, the city said its finances are in “deep trouble” and that it will take “sacrifice from all of us to pull our city out” of the economic crisis.

“To be clear: We are still in the throes of a deep and sustained financial crisis. Many companies and organizations in our community have gone straight to layoffs as a way of balancing their budgets,” the city said. “We have chosen to take a slow implementation of job actions that will spread the sacrifice across the greatest number of people and preserve the most jobs possible. This is the meaning of ‘in this together.’ ”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter

@danieljchacon.

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(46) comments

Leesa Vigil

You don't have to read between the lines to see that Santa Feans are pissed at the wide salary disparities between management and the rank and file. They have been for some time. The rank and file are earning salaries that are barely keeping up with the cost of living in Santa Fe. Sure, salaries should reflect the amount of training, skill, education, expertise, etc., but they should also provide families the basic cost of living. I think that the pain should be spread among everyone. An across the board cut in hours seems fairest in light of the most unfair of all unexpected situations hoisted upon us.

kyle renfro

You dont have to worry about the police department because they do the least amount of work that is physically possible, if that and thanks to their antiquated union, no one can tell them anything, and then while off duty, all their cars are parked in rio rancho

David Cartwright

This city has been run like a party cruise ship, with little regard to the people being squeezed by the ever-rising taxes and charges (like the parking meters), and creating the new welfare class of city employees at all levels. Rather than these % cuts, maybe the best idea is to eliminate some of the major devourers of the tax base that do little for the public good. In other words, an 8 story cruise ship might work better for us than a 16 story cruise ship.

Stefanie Beninato

If the government really wants to reopen then it (at every level) needs to practice social distancing and wearing masks and gloves when working. I have seen two or more city employees in trucks together--no mask. I saw three sheriffs at the district court house--all within 2 ft of each other--all without masks. They also did not think it was necessary to ask people questions about travel etc that were being asked the week before because "only 5 people came into the bldg" Did these officers not take General Science or biology? One person can spread disease. And then there are the state workers--no distancing etc.

If the government wants to help its own bottom line, time to test all government employees and require the proper safety attire and distances so we can reopen.

Nancy Lockland

Oh my God. It's also beneficial to mind your own business.

Stefanie Beninato

Public health and public safety and use of public facility is everybody's business, Nancy or are you one of the careless government employees?

Nicoletta Munroe

The detail that I find the most galling is the fact that the Mayor earns less than the City Manager. The City Manager position was expanded and the salary increased when the Mayor added responsibilities to the position during Litzenberg.

This is controversial, because under the current salary that the Major receives, the Mayor should handle more responsibility. During this budget crisis there is an opportunity to resolve the issue. Is the City Council authorized to cut the upper management to $30,000 so that they can bear the burden, and save some employment hours for those whom need to earn?

I guess the city is now run by the Mayor's former assistant, not very professional.

Paula Frank

Even more galling is that we now pay a mayor a 6-figure salary to oversee and supervise positions that require extensive education and experience, yet the only requirements to run for mayor are that one is 18 years old and a resides in the city of Santa Fe. Essentially we are now paying highly qualified city employees to act under the direction of someone who is not. What a joke. Its our fault, not Webber's.

Leesa Vigil

I believe the mayor has more than a high school education.

Linda Garrido

The City needs to support its lower-income workers!!! Not make them bear the brunt of needed cost-cutting now. Taking away 16-hours of pay!!! Inhumane. Immoral. The city leaders need to lead by taking MUCH bigger pay cuts, MUCH bigger.

angela chavez

I praise Gilbert Baca for totally without a doubt supporting the city employees that need supporting. Thank you Gilbert for telling it like it is. This is a situation where sacrifices have to be made and that holds for the higher ups starting with the Mayor Show how much you love Santa Fe and our people!!!!

Maxwell Vertical

To sharpen their thinking he mayor and governor should show solidarity with those losing their jobs and forgo their compensation since the lockdown until it starts to to be lifted. It may sharpen their thinking.

Diana L Vigil

We as in the Recreation have offered to assist in Parks and Golf course. Admin, Aquatic, Sports and Fitness all going tomorrow to save Marty Sanchez golf course, MRC and Parks since we were not allowed to hire seasonal employees

Stefanie Beninato

thanks for this information, Diane. I have asked the mayor and city council on several occasions how they are using rec employees when rec facilities are closed and have in the age of Webber's lack of transparency received no answer.

steve sandoval

This isn't brain surgery folks. Here's one way to more equitably share the pain and perhaps reduce the number of furloughs being contemplated: all department heads have their salaries reduced 25 percent (from their gross annual salary); all other employees earning 100 K and above have their salaries reduced 10 percent (from their gross annual salary). This may then allow some so-called "non-essential workers" to have some of their proposed furlough hours eliminated, i.e., reducing to eight (8) hours, from 16 the number of proposed furloughed hours. Additionally, suspend or reduce any non-essential expenditures through the end of the current fiscal year. Any requests for expenditures must include a written justification as to why the expenditure should be allowed. Lastly, city councilors, such as the two who have already done so, in the spirit of teamwork, should also voluntarily reduce their salary/stipend 10 percent. Let's put some true meaning into the word "team."

Jeff Varela

Yes. Exempt employees and the Mayor need to contribute more to the reductions. Not long ago when the Mayor did not receive a salary. 30% of $110K, is not enough! Mayor should be lighting some fire under the Gov.s office on the unemployment issue. These employees who are about to be furloughed need their unemployment compensation immediately! Just think how painless this would be if Mayor had trimmed the fat at the top of the administration when he took office. We need some more voices and leadership from the Council!

Stefanie Beninato

I too agree that the highest paid should get the biggest reductions--for example, put the city manager's salary back to her chief of staff salary plus 5 percent. Reassign all deputy department directors and reduce salaries according.

Yet I have to ask what is parking enforcement doing riding around in city vehicles downtown on Saturday night and Sunday when even if the meters were being used, they would not be working. This needless driving is a total waste of city resources. For a whole month, it seems city employees got paid in full--which is more than many non governmental workers can say. Yes, now they are furloughed but as pointed out they still have jobs and I hope benefits which really are very generous will continue. What about lifeguards? What about reassigning if only temporarily to other positions in the city that are considered essential?

carla monroe

Why can't people get creative. How many of these people can help the State with processing Unemployment Compensation (through a contract). Pretty sure with using a location within the City that can be done. Additionally, private companies such as Microsoft and Oracle are looking for online support is there a way of negotiating a contract to support. I bet a few cities can work together and find a way to help their employees. This is the time to become innovative.

Alyssia Lujan-Blea

Great idea!

Joseph Tafoya

It's Unfortunate that citizens who rarely think about how the economy works are about to get a real-life lesson. The first thing they will learn is without the private sector businesses there are no jobs. The private sector businesses create jobs. The private sector businesses and jobs create a tax base. The tax base creates funds to run the government. The government needs people to operate it within the different agencies. Since the government produces nothing of monetary value without the private sector funding it, it safe to assume that the government's only function is to tax for its existence.

Philip Nash

This must be some kind of joke, but I did not see the humor in it. It came across more as a mean spirited idealogical rant.

Andrew Lucero

Clearly Mr. Nash, you are one of the perpetually offended ideologues who turn everything into a partisan political debate. Mr. Tafoya didn’t say anything that was mean spirited or ideological. He made a very honest and cogent statement about the economic reality and how economies work. Nothing more…

Joseph Tafoya

Mr. Nash, The joke is on those that believe that the government can artificially create employment. With or without tax dollars they try to support the many local government's artificial employment positions. Why? It probably depends on the local administration's ideology. Like it or not administrative positions will be the ones who turn off the lights. Those in positions of low skill levels are going to be more expendable than those with high skill levels. I am not insensitive to those with low skill levels. I am just being pragmatic. It takes conditions like today that will, unfortunately, sort out winners and losers. In some sense, we all lose because this is just the tip of the economic iceberg for Santa Fe and the state of New Mexico.

Connie Lopez

Yes, but as we speak City/State/Gov are the only folks with real job stability now, including pensions. Meanwhile, your 401K is tanked. Connie Lopez-Lucero

Leesa Vigil

You give too much credit to business and too little to government. Really, government creates nothing of value? Imagine the chaos there would be in society if there were no police, no firefighters, no school teachers, no environmental regulations. Private sector business and jobs create a tax base. I would argue that the workforce/labor creates the tax base.

Leesa Vigil

To add the to list, government also provides for the public defense, i.e., military, roads, etc. How would business really be done without roads or interstates?

Alyssia Lujan-Blea

A friend of mine is PT at the city and was furloughed 16 hours a WEEK (now only 8 hours a pay period) !! My nephew, started 2 weeks before the stay at home order, FT at 13/hr- furloughed, 16 hours a week (now down to PT).

My husband, considered essential, he's a supervisor furloughed 4 hours a week! See something wrong with this picture!! I am so ashamed of our city, the mayor, the city manager, etc... Who TF thought any of this was a good idea.

Maybe if the city didn't buy new TV's, set up a new cell tower, provide cell phones, provide free wifi all at the old college of sf; just maybe no one would've had to be furloughed! (And to add salt to the wound, 1/2cthe tv's are now missing, city workers can't go there 1st thing in the am, have to wait until after 9am because people are sleeping.)

The city manager needs to take a bigger cut, city council needs to take a cut, the mayor needs to take a 50% cut. Simple math, cut the highest salaries down then less employees will have to take such a big cut.

So ridiculous! The union is 100% right on this and we support you!

Vidal Garcia

Yes! Well said, thank you!

Amber Espinosa-Trujillo

In 2008, when we had furloughs at the State of New Mexico it was 8 hours across the board, high paid exempt employees were treated the same as the rank and file! The Mayor of the City of Santa Fe needs to stop treating the rank and file like second class citizens and make the furloughs equitable! If he did the math, that would provide a greater savings than taking pennies from the poor! Que Relaje! Maybe JoAnne Vigil Coppler can take a calculator to the next meeting and show Webber and Roman, the Mayor and pseudo Mayor the math?

Kevin Box

How entitles can you be? Thousands are being laid off and the city is reducing hours directly based on weather the job even exists or not. Be grateful you have a job at all. The micro criticism of how it’s being done is ridiculous in the face of the unprecedented situation we are all in. Not one lay-off and it’s not good enough? Look around and be glad you are only loosing 15 hours a week!

Vidal Garcia

🤡

Diana L Vigil

Kevin. You need spellcheck and also get your facts straight. Just saying....

Vidal Garcia

Well Allan, I'll say it again, if "the city" wouldn't bleed money on a daily basis and hiring "management" at outrageous salaries. (like your black BMW that's parked in front of city hall all day, that used to be a metered parking space is now free for you. The parking division needs parking fees and citations to pay their employees but you have chosen to turn a metered space into your own free parking spot and for some reason can't park in the garage like all city hall employees) If parking enforcement is not essential then explain why they were working on Easter sunday and not home with their families? Seems like they are essential at Allan's convenience? And wait, employee moral was bad before this virus hit us, just watch when employees return to work. So just a recap, lower level employees take the big cut, upper management skates.

Stefanie Beninato

I saw parking enforcement today before 8AM checking parking meters for money. Was this even necessary. The meters have been hooded for weeks. What was that employee doing? Hoping someone put money in and somehow he deserved to take whatever was there? It is hard to believe that parking enforcement is going around checking hooded meters for money.

Connie Lopez

I guess I'm feeling prior COVID-19, there have always been lousy services by City of Santa Fe. So frankly, who cares if City services are going to be reduced? I ask, "Reduced from what?" Connie Lopez-Lucero

Loren Vigil

Its nor lousy service! This mayor has hired and over paid his friends! The rest of the city was left short handed very badly! There is only so much the city workforce can do! There are great workers at the city, unfortunately management are the worst abusers! Not all but alot!

Connie Lopez

Wrong. Try getting any City service done, even prior COVID-19.

Loren Vigil

Wrong! The city has been short handed since Brian Snyder was city manager!

Carrie Rowland

Ms. Lucero, I don't think that's a fair comment regarding our city employees. They are no different than all of us in Santa Fe. We are an icon the world over because of our collective culture. It's not particularly efficient or fast. It's sometimes not easily understood. Santa Fe is a special place. Our faults are also our exceptional virtues. I hope we don't lose that during this crisis.

Connie Lopez

"We are an icon the world over because of our collective culture." Give me a break! What are you even talking about? All I know is there are potholes everywhere. I guess that's [iconic].

George Welland

Many of the city's lower paid employees (you know, the ones that actually do the work), would be better off filing for unemployment insurance (UI), but the city is probably smart enough to keep them on reduced hours and work them just enough to keep them off those rolls). Too bad for the rest of us, because the more members of the working class in Santa Fe NOT getting their UI checks, would be more voters screaming at the inept legislators to relax the state's punitive UI laws, when the legislature is called back (and being wined and dined by business lobbyists to further exploit the working poor!).

Anne Minard

Thank you for this story - it’s important that we understand the wider and longer-term impacts of the pandemic, distressing as they are. I am curious and concerned about the state budget, given not just CV but also the oil crash. Is anyone making projections yet? Thank you.

Steve Spraitz

The mayor and his cronies can affird to work fir 10% or less than shat tgey get i ok aid in their overinflated non essential positions

Guevara is a break

Recall teem all

Philip Nash

Please type slower to avoid typos that make your comments difficult to comprehend.

Shane Cronenweth

I agree, Philip. Recommend people reread what they write before they hit “Send”. Confusing!!

Nancy Lockland

Rude!!

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