Santa Fe city employees would get raises and several new positions would show up on City Hall’s organizational chart under Mayor Alan Webber’s first budget proposal, which council members will delve into during a series of public hearings that start Tuesday.
Electric ratepayers in Santa Fe also could see slightly higher bills if the council goes along with a proposed increase in the franchise fee that the city collects from Public Service Company of New Mexico.
Webber’s proposed general fund budget, which pays for day-to-day operations, reflects an overall spending increase of $6 million, or 6.2 percent, over the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Proposed pay hikes and health and dental insurance costs are among the biggest contributing factors.
“This is a ‘people first’ budget,” Webber wrote in the introduction of his 136-page spending plan, the first developed entirely by his administration since he took office in March 2018 as Santa Fe’s first full-time mayor.
“We take seriously the management principle that any organization is only as good as the people who work inside it,” he added. “Our goal is to make sure that the city of Santa Fe is the employer of choice for talented people who want to make a difference through their work.”
In an interview Monday, Webber said his spending plan will fully fund the recommendations of a classification and compensation study, bringing employees up to market-level pay, at a cost of about $1.7 million.
“We are really committed to being a people first city government where we take care of the people who deliver the services that take care of the people of Santa Fe,” he said.
Among the highlights of the mayor’s proposed budget:
u Nearly $4 million in salary and benefit increases, including a 2 percent pay hike for the estimated 750 members of Local 3999 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME; a 2 percent pay increase and a 1 percent longevity pay increase, or 3 percent total, for firefighters; and $930,000 for police pay or benefits.
u The creation of several new jobs, including four more patrol safety aides, an “ambassador” for senior citizens and three yet-to-be-defined positions “to assist in the planning and development of the city as a place for people to live, work, play, and thrive.”
u $1 million to match the state’s $1.1 million contribution in capital outlay funding for phase 1 of the Southside Teen Center.
u A proposed 1 percent increase to the PNM franchise fee agreement with the city, generating an additional $700,000 for the general fund. The cost would be likely be passed along the PNM’s customers in Santa Fe, increasing from $1 on a monthly $50 electric bill to $1.50.
u More than $4 million on a wide variety of software and other technology upgrades, including $75,000 to develop a new city website “to help residents easily navigate city services and [proactively] communicate information.”
u $20,000 for a Police Explorer Program to help steer teenagers toward a law enforcement career at the Santa Fe Police Department.
The city, which employs about 1,400 people, plans to spend an additional $1.5 million on employees’ medical and dental premiums.
The mayor’s spending plan states that the city’s share of health insurance costs have increased 62 percent over the last decade, “far outpacing the growth in the city’s budget over that same period of time.”
Despite the cost increases, the city hasn’t raised health insurance rates in the last three years and covered deficits “by balances in the health fund,” according to the proposed budget.
“As a result of the difference between the cost of claims and the funding for the self-insured plan, the benefits consultant is recommending the city increase medical premiums by 9.9 percent and dental premiums by 11.4 percent,” the budget proposal states. “The city’s increase would be approximately $1.5 million.”
The spending plan doesn’t state how much more city employees will have to kick in, if any.
Webber said there were three things he wanted to achieve with his budget. He said he wanted to be fiscally responsible, pay city employees well and make city government an employer of choice, and improve relationships with city unions and “all the people who are represented in the city workforce.”
The proposed budget is “our attempt to catch up to deferred maintenance,” from employee pay and technology investments to building upgrades and playing field improvements.
“We are making up in many cases for lost time and for years of under-investment,” he said. “At the same time, it’s important to note that this is a balanced budget, and we are not raising taxes to do this — and we are rebuilding our reserves at the same time.”
Asked whether the city would cut or eliminate any government services under his proposed budget, Webber said he honestly couldn’t say off the top of his head.
“I’d have to look at the budget in more detail,” he said. “We’ll get to it starting [today].”
Budget hearings are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. They will all be in council chambers at City Hall, 200 Lincoln Ave.
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.