Webber Proposes $403 mil Budget

Proposed budget calls for pay raises and bolstering reserves

Mayor Alan Webber proposes a $403 million city budget for Santa Fe in the coming fiscal year, with pay increases for government staff as well as millions of dollars for housing assistance, road improvements and bolstering the municipality’s financial reserves.

The proposal, released for the first time this afternoon, would amount to just over a 5% increase in spending from the current year’s original city budget, which totaled about $383 million when approved by councilors. Yet, additional revenue and adjustments by the mayor and council have raised the current year’s spending to $425 million—5% less than Webber’s proposal for next year.

While the city has seen record revenue flow into its coffers in recent years amid a rebound in tourism after the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic and a boost in federal as well as state grants, Santa Fe officials are not counting on that revenue boom continuing as economic uncertainty mounts.

“Based on our projection, we expect a leveling out or perhaps a gradual decline. That’s why we’re putting money in our reserves,” city Finance Director Emily Oster told reporters during a briefing Thursday.

The budget calls for putting $10.5 million into reserves and focusing on what the mayor described as major investments.

“Our intent was to be fiscally responsible right now and do some increases for projects we absolutely have to get done,” Webber told reporters.

The mayor’s proposed budget calls for dedicating $4.2 million to housing assistance, including $3.6 million in direct housing assistance payments for eligible city residents and another half a million dollars for grants to nonprofits providing housing services.

Webber is also proposing to put $1.5 million into furnishing and staffing the new Southside teen center. And the mayor’s proposed budget calls for $2.5 million of road repairs, $540,000 for “median safety improvements” and $2.8 million for the upkeep and maintenance of city facilities. The proposed budget also includes $100,000 for ongoing work stemming from the city’s CHART process.

The mayor is also proposing another raise for city staff, but with the largest percentage raises focused on those earning less in city government. That would mean a 3% raise to all staff earning less than $100,000 annually and a 1% raise for employees earning more than that amount.

Webber says the money placed in reserves could be put to use “if we don’t get stormy weather” economically. He argued that the city still needs to diversify its sources of revenue and lessen its reliance on gross receipts taxes, which can fluctuate dramatically due to trends in tourism. That could include seeking out more grants from federal and nonprofit sources as well as seeking to boost revenue from operations, like the airport.

“We are going to have to look for ways—without harming our residents—look for ways to gain another stream of revenue to continue to serve people in the city,” Webber said.

The mayor’s proposal does not account for legislation the City Council approved recently that would allow councilors to hire staff.

Rather, the City Council’s budget would only increase about 2.5% under the proposal released Thursday. That budget includes an allocation of $15,000 per councilor for office supplies, travel, printing and other expenses.

The city manager’s budget would increase about 41% and include $60,000 for an equity and inclusion study, $50,000 for strategic planning services and funding for the creation of an administrative manager position to help with daily operations of the office.

The proposal comes ahead of a round of hearings on the budget. The City Council’s Finance Committee will hold nine meetings on the budget starting at 1 pm on April 11. The committee is expected to vote on a budget April 27. The mayor and full council will get their say May 10. The current fiscal year ends in June.

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