Santa Fe city council approves furloughs to help with deficit

Coronavirus New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – On Wednesday, Santa Fe city council voted to approve furloughs for city employees. Some critics are wondering why that decision was made when the city also approved about half a million dollars to construct bathrooms at a city parking lot. The city is furloughing some of its employees to help fill an about $100 million deficit brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s hard on everybody. It’s hard on council members who had to make a vote like that because we’d much rather keep everybody working and delivering services to the people in the city of Santa Fe but the truth is, we have a really unprecedented budget shortfall,” Alan Webber, Mayor of Santa Fe said.

The approved plan furloughs city employees 4 hours a week and top city officials 6 hours a week from July 11, 2020, to September 4, 2020. Mayor Webber said this will equate to an about 15% pay cut for city employees. The city also agreed to spend about $544,000 on building bathrooms at the city parking lot on Water Street in downtown Santa Fe.

People, who didn’t want to go on camera, say the decisions by the city make them question the priorities of city leadership.

“I think it’s easy to understand why people would be upset and confused,” Mayor Webber said. “On the one hand, we’re talking about the serious financial, um, revenue shortfalls we got for city operations, and on the other hand, we’re able to commit this money to build a new restroom. The answer is, they are very different funds. We have money we’ve gotten from the state to do capital projects, to build facilities, or to pave roads.”

The restroom project is being paid for by the capital outlay funds from the state. According to Mayor Webber, the employees’ salaries are paid for from the ‘operating’ budget which is mostly made up of gross tax receipts.

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