SANDOVAL COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – Some Sandoval County employees say they are struggling to put food on the table. Some say they have even chosen to work outside of the county to make more money.
“We have to pay a living wage in our county government, and right now we are not paying a living wage,” Sandoval County Commissioner and Vice Chairman Jay Block said. “That needs to change.”
Some county workers say they are living paycheck to paycheck. “One individual I spoke with is married and has a 5-year-old and 3-year-old,” Block said. “He is only taking home $800 every two weeks. His wife works, and he has another part-time job.”
Block said the county is short on money, one reason being the recent renovation of the detention center.
“We had to raise taxes to help pay for renovating the entire detention center,” Block said. “That has taken away a lot of our money that could be used for raises.”
He said the financial constraint is making it hard to pay employees competitive wages.
“We are having a very difficult time retaining people,” Block said. “A lot of people are going to the City of Rio Rancho, Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque.”
While Block could not say the exact number of county employees they have lost, he said 45,000 Sandoval County residents choose not to work there daily.
Commission Chairman Dave Heil weighed in at the last county meeting. “The majority of our residents leave the county daily to go to work or our students leave our community for more competitive opportunities elsewhere and our dollars follow,” Heil said.
In order to retain workers, Block said they may choose not to fill vacant job openings in the county and put that money toward raises for employees. He also said they are trying to find ways to eliminate wasteful county spending, such as finding a more efficient way to manage the vehicle fleet.
They are considering raising taxes again as a last resort. “Everything in my mind is on the table, but the tax raises is the last thing I want to do,” Block said. “I would rather find the money somewhere else.”
The county is currently conducting a salary analysis to see how its employees are being paid in comparison to the commercial market and other government agencies. That is expected to be completed in several months.