Monday, May 29, 2023

Councilors Cool Off after Spending Big Bucks

Council passes city's next $1.4 billion budget, but with little new to show for it


Curtailing future Mayor’s powers and a billion dollar budget topped with ice cream were the big ticket items at the Albuquerque City Council May 15 regular meeting.


Trophy Mayor?

Councilors debated asking voters to take away the lion’s share of our future mayor’s powers.


At issue was a charter amendment introduced by Councilors Louie Sanchez and Renee Grout that would eliminate the current form of government that is sometimes called a strong mayor system and replace it with a council-manager form of government.


Currently, the elected mayor has lots of administrative powers including the power to appoint and dismiss department heads. Under a council-manager form of government, the elected mayor would only be good for ceremonial purposes. Think ribbon cuttings, ground breakings, etc. This mayor would break ties at the City Council meetings. But with a nine-member Council that situation could be quite rare. The Council would then hire a city manager to carry out the administrative duties of running the city.


The sponsors said it was not about politics but about growing as a city. They cited municipalities such as Rio Rancho, Las Cruces and Las Vegas, Nev., who have this form of government. 


Some Councilors seemed to agree that it was a good discussion. Some said the possibility of consolidating with Bernalillo County needs to be part of the discussion about moving the city forward. Others said it would set the city back 50 years.


The idea was deferred until June 5. Six out of nine councilors are needed to get it on the Nov. 7 ballot. If passed, the amendment to the charter would not impact current Mayor Tim Keller but will change the job duties of the mayor to follow him in 2 years.


Budget Cool Off

Councilors were treated with ice cream by city staff after passing the fiscal year 2023-2024 $1.37 billion budget. While this sounds like a big chunk of change, it is about $50 million lower than last year’s budget. The city’s coffers are actually kinda lean this go-round due to the end of COVID programs and stagnate programs, according to city bean counters.



The cherries on top of the budget ice cream celebration may be the 3.5% pay raise for city employees, bringing all city employees up to at least $15 per hour; $3 million to fund the zero bus fare program; and about $14 million for desperately needed housing help. 


Some of the other goodies in the budget include: A little over $15 million for the Animal Care Center; $17 million for the top-notch Bio Park; $16 million for our incredible versatile library system; about $250 million to the police department to get up to 1,040 sworn positions; about $110 million for the fire department to save us from ourselves; and the interesting budget line items go on and on. 


The 8 - 1 vote showed Councilor Dan Lewis casting the lone nay, saying something about fiscal responsibility.


The next meeting of the Albuquerque City Council is set for 5pm on June 5. For more information, agenda and video meeting links, go to


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