Audit raises concerns over spending of public safety tax money

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The money is meant to fight crime, but the city may have been using it on other things. A new audit into Albuquerque’s public safety tax is raising concerns over how millions of dollars were being spent each year.

This is not the new safety tax that went into effect last year. This is the old one that’s been around since 2004, and there are rules on how it should be spent.

“When they passed this, the real idea was to be sure that the money that voters approved for public safety didn’t get siphoned off by some politician into some pet project,” City Councilor Pat Davis said.

The city’s Office of Internal Audit did a deep dive into the quarter-cent tax. The sales tax generates about $37 million a year. The majority of it goes to police and fire for salaries and equipment. However, it’s the $9 million or so that’s supposed to be funneled into the city’s family and community services department for “crime prevention and intervention” that’s being called into question.

The audit found that in 2017 budget years 2017 and 2018 under Mayor Berry, about $6 million went to help the homeless, as well as for drug treatment and to help at-risk kids. However, each year, about $3 million to $4 million were not earmarked for specific crime prevention or intervention projects.

“They’re recommending we create that task force commission, put some people on it, and really start publicly vetting some of the community policing and prevention programs so we can prioritize money for those,” Councilor Davis said.

The audit points out that more than a decade ago, city council created a board to oversee the tax, make recommendations on how it should be spent, and make sure it’s spent correctly. The board was never staffed.

The audit also takes exception with the wording of “crime prevention and intervention,” saying it’s too vague.

Mayor Keller’s office says it outlined where all of the quarter-cent public safety tax money was spent in last year’s budget, and this year’s, and has promised to create that tax advisory board within a year.

To read the audit, click here.

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