Get Wise on Budget Woes
Mayor, councilors take public input on how to fix city budget shortfallLocal NewsTuesday, December 1, 2015
Mayor Javier Gonzales will host listening sessions to take public input on and discuss solutions to the budget shortfall on Monday, Dec. 7 and Tuesday, Dec. 15. The opportunity for public participation is preface to the budget conversations expected to begin in early 2016 as the City Council moves to tackle, at long last, a looming $15 million difference between city revenue and city spending. Expecting that these solutions will take more than one year to devise and roll out, officials aim to release a budget for three years instead of one.
City finances rely largely on gross receipts tax revenue, which has slumped since the recession, and finds itself struggling to make ends meet faced with an aging population of retirees and many second home owners who simply don’t spend enough on taxable goods and services to stock the city coffers.
“The economy and demographics changed, and the city up until now has had a hard time adjusting to those changes,” says Oscar Rodriguez, Santa Fe’s finance director.
After once again raiding the surplus funds generated by the city-run water utility (that utility budgets assuming people will only spend the $6 per 1,000 gallon rate, and anytime someone over uses and buys water at $22 per 1,000 gallons, it’s essentially surplus) to balance the budget this year, city councilors vowed to mend their ways and close the gap. Without finding other ways of plugging the hole, Gonzales told SFR in an October meeting, the city will run the risk of having so little cash on hand that they may not be able to cover basics like payroll for city employees.
Raising the gross receipts tax by a number of mills won’t even be enough at this point. We’ll likely be looking at increases in other taxes, such as property taxes, which usually cover the bulk of a city’s budget but in the City Different comprise less than 10 percent of funding.
The mayor has mentioned trying to decrease the costs of city government, increase efficiency and boost the economy, as well as making cuts in a “no sacred cows” approach, including possible cuts to senior centers and recreation centers.
“There’s not a single area that’s safe from looking at cutting costs,” Gonzales told SFR. “It’s not just one fix. It’s a comprehensive effort to right-size government.”
Got an opinion on all that? Of course you do.
Listening sessions take place 6-7 pm Monday, Dec. 7 at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center and Tuesday, Dec. 15, at the Main Library.