The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is about to hit hundreds of Santa Fe city employees where it hurts the most: their wallets.

The city will impose furloughs of four hours a week on 868 employees and 16 hours a week on 180 others for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, under a highly contentious proposal that was approved by a split City Council late Wednesday night.

The furloughs on a vast majority of the city’s workforce are part of a larger cost-cutting effort by Mayor Alan Webber and his administration to close a $46 million budget deficit over the next two months amid a pandemic that has ravaged the economy and capsized the city’s once-optimistic revenue projections.

“If you’re feeling angry, frustrated, sad, mad or just plain fed up because this whole situation really sucks, I agree, it does suck,” Webber said at the beginning of the discussion. “And if you want someone or something to blame, blame COVID-19. COVID-19 is like a thief in the night that snuck into our home and stole our money, our sense of security, our nest egg for future investments and left us with a $46 million debt to pay.”

The furloughs are projected to save $1.43 million, or just 3 percent of the total budget gap the city needs to close. The city also plans to freeze nonessential spending, restrict overtime and implement other cost-cutting measures that will generate about $29.5 million in savings. Despite the belt-tightening, the city still faces a $16.5 million shortfall, which Mary McCoy, the city’s finance director, said would largely be filled using the city’s $14 million rainy day fund.

“This is the worst our government has experienced from a fiscal perspective,” McCoy said.

Though the savings from the furloughs are small, relatively speaking, the reduction in work hours drew harsh criticism from city employees who called them unfair, saying lower-paid workers would take the biggest hit. Some city councilors were also critical of the plan and how it was rolled out, saying they didn’t get the opportunity to provide input beforehand and that the Webber administration gave them no other options to consider.

The 5-4 vote came after a four-hour discussion and debate that grew more testy as the hours wore on.

“What I’ve learned from this is when you want to slam-dunk your plan, use up the clock so there’s no room for creative collaboration, only the plan of the victor,” City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler said before casting a vote in opposition.

“It’s OK,” she added. “I’ve learned from this to leave the policymakers out of the real discussions. I’ve also learned that we’re going to keep the high earners high and the low earners low when it comes to losing money, and the lower-paid employees are the ones who do the work.”



Other city councilors who voted against the furloughs were Michael Garcia, Chris Rivera and Renee Villarreal.

Webber said the temporary furloughs are designed to keep workers employed and essential city services operating. Employees whose facilities are closed or perform job functions that have been reduced, such as parks and recreation workers, will be furloughed 16 hours a week.

“We’ve looked at a lot of plans — some were ours, some were offered by others,” Webber said. “Among a number of bad options designed to address a bad situation, this is the least bad plan.”

City Councilor Jamie Cassutt-Sanchez said the furloughs won’t be the last hard decision the governing body will be forced to make as a result of the pandemic.

“It’s the first,” she said, noting that the fiscal crisis will drag into the next fiscal year and possibly beyond.

Before and during the council meeting, city employees rallied in opposition to the furloughs outside City Hall from the safety of their vehicles. It appeared that only the mayor was participating in the virtual meeting from his office at City Hall, and the honking of horns could be heard in the background.

Employees’ vehicle windows were plastered with posters.

“If you want to see the true measure of an elected official, watch how they treat their rank & file, not their equals,” read one.

“We can do better!” read another. “We can’t ignore the inequalities that persist within our city. All we ask for is fairness from the top to the bottom.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(27) comments

Stefanie Beninato

Although Webber did apologize you can see how testy he gets when someone disagrees with his plans. And then at the very end when Lindell and Webber on the screen they went through the good buddies thing and then Lindell, in what I think was dismissive of the councilors who voted against the furlough, actually said to Webber who said he would call Lindell the next day she "would see him at the adults table." COVID and Lindell nastiness at its best

Augustin de la Sierra

Mayor Webber took a 30% pay cut. Councilor Romero-Wirth and Councilor Abeyta took 10% pay cuts. It's not clear whether other Councilors took pay cuts. But Webber, Romero-Wirth and Abeyta all voted for the furloughs. Webber was my fourth choice for mayor. But I give him and these two Councilors credit for taking the pay cut and being consistent in their voting yesterday.

Santa Fe New Mexican, can you confirm that no other Councilors took a pay cut?

Stefanie Beninato

If you were listening last night, the city councilors cannot take a pay cut because it is my ordinance. They would have to change the ordinance which has not happened so far. So they get paid in full and then can donate some or part of their salary. I would suggest they contact a tax lawyer so it can be done without any tax consequence for the councilors. Webber's salary was set by a commission. I am not sure if that allows him unilaterally to change his salary either--but great PR. Webber could easily go down to the 75K that was initially suggested when this whole strong mayor model got voted for with no negative consequences. Garcia promised 30 percent I believe and Riviera promised 100 percent--the 4 thousand that Romero Wirth and Abeyta are giving up is not much given they have other employment.

Gerald Joyce

Chris Rivera offered to donate his whole salary

Lynn k Allen

The people in charge are acting as Managers... as managers it is their responsibility to protect their workers and the purpose of their work. Managers are paid a high salary and have saved wealth as well as opportunity for loans -- hourly workers generally not! Managers should cut their salaries to protect the city and society they ran to protect! In hard times, they can survive better than hourly workers. Spare the government expense of the social safety net - keep hourly jobs now!

Character Counts in the City Different!

Managers, take a fair cut and show us your character and love for the job you ran for.

Mark Ortiz

No surprises from Romero-Wirth, Lindell, Abeyta, Webber. Cassutt-Sanchez, I think we may be seeing why the Webber/Abeyta brain trust handpicked you. We need to look ahead people. Vigil Coppler for Mayor 2022. Wake up, class warfare is upon us. While Ben Ray (Pelosi's jito), Haaland, Heinrich, Udall, Small, have showed how spineless they are fighting for crisis relief in Congress for THE PEOPLE giving us $1,200 in crumbs, it has further exposed the elites, Dems and Repubs. The divide between the haves and the have nots will grow. As the NM Congressional delegation bends its knees to corporations and wall street, we must ask ourselves, what will we do in our beloved City of Santa Fe? Thank you Councillors Rivera, Villlareal, Vigil Coppler, and Garcia.

George Welland

TO: Mr. Mark Ortiz - I would only disagree with part of your observation that, "class warfare is upon us..." My perception is that class warfare HAS LONG BEEN WAGED and this pandemic merely lays bare how obscene and well designed the battle has been orchestrated by the 1% (to which all of the state wide elected DINO's are beholden... including the Governor, who's heroic actions will be erased by the incompetence of her labor secretary and his mismanagement of NMDWS). Again I suggest everyone (who's not an emergency responder or health provider) just stay home tomorrow (May 1, 2020) and work on their picket signs (which they should plant in their front yard or give to the panhandlers on the corners of busy intersections).

Mark Ortiz

Here here Mr. Welland!! Noam Chomsky explains it quite thoroughly in the 72 minute documentary Requiem for America. It's free to watch on Youtube.

George Welland

👍 !

Barbara Harrelson

I agree about the class warfare, and yes, Vigil Coppler for Mayor 2022!

Mari Martin

I strongly agree with you. Thank you for this comment.

Arcy Baca

Wow! Upper management survives! Does anyone recall this part of the rank voting and the rest of the charter voted in? You have a paid mayor and a city manager! Mayor Webber if you want to get paid do your job which relieves the city of having a paid city manager! Your high paid upper managers need to be cut and combine departments so you don t need so many mangers! Lay off or furlough double dippers and request all personel eligible to retire! This are all long hanging fruit which will make it less painful for employees and residents! Why not go to a 4 day 10 hours that allows to shut down the city 1 whole day a week!

Stefanie Beninato

The ranked voting had nothing to do with charter changes. I was opposed to the strong mayor type of government because there is no separation of powers (legislative and executive) for the top official in this model. We can see how aggressive the current city manager, the city attorney and Webber are in expanding the executive powers without legislative oversight because they can. Webber is definitely a DINO and reminds me more and more of the Liar/Denier in Chief in DC

Mari Martin

[thumbup]

Stefanie Beninato

I appreciate teh councilors who called out Alan and the city manager on this usurpation of authority from the council. However the council has been slow to act--it didn't care that land use regularly "interprets" clearly worded ordinances to get an outcome and other instances where the executive overstepped its role. That's what happens when you have a mayor who is part of the legislature (council) and the executive. Executive processes can be done in the backroom as this furlough deal was done and the development of the midtown Campus is being done. It seems that Webber has his coalition who will help "splain" why council should get run over by the executive in the process (Romero-Wirth comes across as a shill--always asking questions she knows the answers to so she can "educate" the public to accept whatever policy is up for discussion.

And council that is what happens when you vote to give emergency powers that were good for a few days and extend them for 60 days including allowing the city manager to decide a public meeting is not necessary.

Why can city land use boards have video presentations by applicants (which should be extended to public participants) and the city council ONLY wants written comments submitted hours before the meeting? Webber thinks he is quite smart but his movidas are obvious.

Ruby RO

I recall when Webber ran for Mayor and showed up at a debate with a large notebook outlining the concerns of how our city was being run. The implication was that he would straighten out management of Santa Fe. Unfortunately he has turned out to be completely inept. Planning and Land Use requires apx. 2 months to approve the most simple building permits, fees needed to be paid in person as the new financial software wasn't working, Salvador Perez was delayed again in it's opening and lifeguards at the pools couldn't be managed, the waste water treatment plant goes in and out of service regularly, we have a pothole about knee deep from railyard water drainage that rips off bumpers near my home, no traffic or parking management for over development in the railyard, ineffective public safety strategies in our city parks, and the list goes on and on. After watching the meeting last night and just how inarticulate and inexperienced our city manager is, may god help us get through the remainder of Webber's administration. About all we will hear is ideology and what's being done for the homeless, with no consideration for the beautiful people who live and work in Santa Fe.

Stefanie Beninato

I am not sure I would characterize the city manager as inarticulate. I got the feeling that she knew it was a done deal, that she had worked hard on her plan and so of course it was the best and should be immediately accepted.

And BTW Councilor Rivera if you think HR is going to help people fill out unemployment--get a grip--HR will hand you the pamphlet that they "created" (one of the many bogus reasons given why HR and City Attorney staffs cannot be cut). This pamphlet is nothing more than you would find on the state's DWS webpage. The city attorney is going to protect the city as a corporation from COVID19 lawsuits and engage in national lawsuits that serves no city function or purpose. The city just approved action on 2 lawsuits that involve the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act. The city does not distribute health care plans or take applications for the ACA. The city does not use the ACA for its staff Why in this pandemic are we taking staff time to build national reps for Webber and McSherry at taxpayer expense?

Ruby RO

Anytime a city manager requires the mayor to jump in and finish or further explain your view point, arms wave wildly because no words seem to express your thoughts, and an obvious lack of respect and trust is demonstrated by many of the councilors comments, well I would say that the communication skills of a city manager being paid 170.000 in a city this size is very disappointing. But I would guess that the city manager position under Webber is little more than a minion designed to carry out his authority. Webber has apparently not learned the basic importance of including people with different viewpoints and backgrounds in his administration, and boy does it show! What a whopping failure his administration is, surrounded with overpaid staff and developers drooling at slamming in even more development with no attention to infrastructure, or quality of life.

Angel Ortiz

Well said! Thank you.

kyle renfro

THANK THE GOV FOR GOING DOWN THE TUBES. Her having zero leaderships sure shines at this moment . Maybe you can ask all the illegals to donate to help this crisis.

George Welland

Yes, thank you Governor... for preventing untold numbers of New Mexicans from needing hospitalization and likely dying with a ventilator tube in their throat...THANK YOU FOR SAVING US FROM THE TUBE GOING DOWN! as for those "illegals," they're the ones that are still working, without any benefits... so thank you, illegals, for the sacrifices you make every day and your donations to the economy.

Angel Ortiz

Kyle, once again going off the deep end. Placing blame and having no substance in your dialog. Keep trying. Someday you might succeed. In the meantime, have you considered relocating to Grants?

Stefanie Beninato

:-)

George Welland

In as much as there are true heroes, like the governor, in dealing with the current pandemic; there are also the typical politicians, bureaucrats and the usual apparatchiks of the status-quo; and Mayor Webber is clearly of the latter ilk! _____________________________________________________________________ If employees had half a brain or ounce of courage they'd all call-in sick tomorrow with the "furlough-flu." On their day off at home they could file for unemployment insurance (UI) and find out that working 24 to 36 hours a week will make them ineligible for UI ! The workers, like all workers, don't need to unite... they need to STRIKE out on their own (and do nothing tomorrow but plan for their own futures and that of their families, because this furlough action is just a stop gap measure and mostly for show... it's going to get a lot worse).

Ted Nugent

I've said it before. City services will not be missed because there were none prior COVID-19. Patsy Lopez-Lucero

angela chavez

This is what happens when you vote in the wrong person. We as citizens and longtime residents of Santa Fe need to be more selective of who we vote for and for God's sake vote 4 people that will honor and respect our community as a whole.

Steve Spraitz

Trim he fat from upper level overpaid bigots

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