ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – City workers have been complaining for years they’re not getting the raises they’ve been promise, but Albuquerque’s next mayor and future city councilors will get a big pay hike.
Albuquerque’s voter-approved Independent Salary Commission decided Tuesday morning that the mayor and council isn’t being paid what they should, making a move to put the mayor and city councilors pay in-line with other southwest cities.
“The scope of the job of both the mayor and the council has changed considerably in recent decades,” said John Carey, chair of Albuquerque’s Independent Salary Commission.
Carey is one of the five commissioners who voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of the proposed pay hikes. Starting in 2017, Albuquerque’s next mayor will get about $16,000 more each year. That will boost the position’s annual pay from $109,325 to $125,000.
Along with a public hearing and an online survey of people’s opinions, the commission in charge of the pay hikes compared the mayor and council’s pay to 12 other neighboring Southwest cities. Those include Austin, Denver, El Paso, Kansas City, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Mesa, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, Santa Fe, Tucson and Tulsa.
Of those twelve cities, Albuquerque’s mayor’s pay only tops Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City.
“We felt like the mayor needed an adjustment to be more competitive with other southwestern cities,” said Carey.
The next elected city councilors will get nearly double their current pay, from $17,500 to 30,000 a year. The council president’s pay will be boost from $19,500 to 32,000 a year. The commission says that Albuquerque’s council positions are full-time jobs that pay less than minimum wage.
“They get telephone calls late at night, there are late evening hearings, there’s travel there are neighborhood association meetings,” said Carey.
Albuquerque city councilor Ken Sanchez told KRQE News 13 Tuesday that he supports the pay-hike as he believes it will entice more people to run for office on a $30,000 a year wage. Council president Rey Garduno told News 13 that he believes the salary hike is a “fair” amount, but says $30,000 is “still not really a living wage.”
“This is a place where you can help the city, not help yourself,” said Garduno. “When I started out, we were at $7,000 (a year.)
Not everyone agrees with the pay hike though. Mayor R.J. Berry told News 13 Tuesday that the mayor’s salary shouldn’t change.
“I’m not sure what the value to the tax payer is going to be for bumping that salary up,” said Berry.
The Mayor won’t see this raise in his check though. The Mayor imposed a 5% pay-cut on his own salary a few years back. Currently, Berry makes $103,854 annually.
“I think that you’ll get anybody that wants to serve their community as mayor can certainly do so on the existing salary,” said Berry.
Most city employees haven’t seen a significant pay boost in more than five years either. There’s no indication that could come anytime soon either. Albuquerque’s early budget outlook shows the city will likely have $14-million less this next budget, compared to FY2015.
However, salary commissioners believe taxpayers can handle wage hikes for the top elected officials.
“What we try to do is come up with salaries that we think are fair and reasonable, said Carey.
The raises do not need to be approved by the mayor or city council. By 2017, all of the raises will be in effect, costing taxpayers an extra $128,000 each year.
For councilors, the new $30,000-a-year check puts them in line with what Santa Fe and Las Cruces’ city councilors make each year. The soonest anyone can see a raise is January, when four city councilors will start new terms.