Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and three members of the City Council Finance Committee announced Thursday they plan to introduce a resolution that would bring all city employees up to a $15 minimum wage.

The pay increase would affect about 146 employees across nine departments and 29 employee classifications, Webber said. The raises would go to nonunion workers, as well as those represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees and the fire union.

Webber, alongside City Councilors Carol Romero-Wirth, Roman “Tiger” Abeyta and Signe Lindell — all up for reelection in November — spoke in favor of the proposal Thursday.

“It’s always been said where you put your resources and your budget is a reflection of your values,” Webber said. “In making this announcement, we are saying we value our workers.”

The proposal would cost about $215,000 for the remainder of the current fiscal year and $300,000 in each subsequent year and would be funded through better-than-expected gross receipts tax revenue.

The raise would amount to about $5,000 a year for each employee.

As the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold in May 2020, the city predicted a $100 million budget shortfall due to a projected 33 percent drop in gross receipts tax revenue. Those numbers began to rebound in 2021.

“Some people say we were too conservative,” Abeyta said. “But now we are reaping the benefits.”

The resolution would make Santa Fe the first government in New Mexico to offer a $15 minimum wage for employees. The city’s current minimum wage is $12.32 per hour. Albuquerque, the state’s largest city, raised its minimum wage from $9 to $10.50 an hour in January.

Romero-Wirth said the raise is key to filling vacant positions across the city and competing with other public-sector employers as well as the private sector.

According to a memo sent by city spokesman Dave Herndon, some of the employees who would receive raises are 23 parks maintenance workers, 24 custodians and 21 library technicians.

Nine lifeguards and six firefighter positions are also in line for raises.

Lindell said other employers have made a push for $15-an-hour minimum wages, and Santa Fe should try to be competitive with those entities.

“I’m hoping we can bring this resolution forward and get it passed quickly and get these wages to our city employees quickly and let them know we truly value their contributions to this community,” she said.

Webber said a class and compensation study, currently underway by the city’s Human Resources Department, will help iron out any wage compaction issues caused by the pay raise.

The city completed a class and compensation study in 2018, which resulted in other positions being bumped to $15 an hour.

Romero-Wirth said the hope is to introduce the resolution at the next City Council meeting Wednesday. If all goes as planned, the resolution would reach the Quality of Life Committee on Sept. 15 and the Finance Committee on Sept. 20 before returning to the full City Council on Sept. 29.

If the resolution is approved, the Human Resources Department will determine an effective date for the raises.

(7) comments

Toby Wright

While this is being debated, substitute teachers continue to make about $14 and change an hour. Since there is such a vast teacher shortage, wouldn't it be nice to know that the people who are in charge of our City's students, even though temporarily, can make as much as a lifeguard at the pool?

Mike Johnson

Hey, why not $25/hour? I don't love there and it's not my money so why not?

Jarratt Applewhite

Such a no brainer -- the $300k annual cost is a drop in the bucket. The City should lead on the living wage issue . Indeed, I think it should consider offering supplemental compensation to employees now living outside its high cost of living jurisdiction who move inside the City limits. The community loyalty and increased local taxes generated by new City employees living where they work would be a big plus.

Stefanie Beninato

I have been advocating for higher wages for lifeguards in particular. The minimum wage is not competitive. However, my question is if the city has such great GRT revenues, why are city facilities not operating at full pre-pandemic hours? Eg libraries, rec facilities, land use dept etc

Joseph Tafoya

Why would this come up now, especially with an election on the horizon? I would guess it's one way for Mayor to secure the city employee vote.

Debi Croney

They should do this.

Jim Klukkert

Hard to believe that the city of Santa Fe is paying firefighters and lifeguards less than $15/hour.

Certainly city maintenance workers, custodians and library technicians deserve the same.

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