Updated: October 20, 2020 06:15 AM
Created: October 19, 2020 09:57 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque City Council passed the fiscal year 2021 budget Monday, which will now head to Mayor Keller’s desk for final approval.
The new budget addresses some of the strains the city is facing due to the pandemic, and also paves the way for the creation of a new city safety department.
Mayor Keller announced the new department over the summer amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.
The new public safety department would allow different teams, made up of people like social workers, respond to non-violent 911 calls involving issues like mental health or addiction.
“I think we’re all committed to this,” said Councilor Isaac Benton. “We support it. We applaud the administration for bringing forth the idea for this new department, and we are excited about it and we need to fully fund it.”
Within that budget, councilors set aside around $2.5 million to get that department off the ground. Councilor Lan Sena sponsored an amendment that added an additional $500,000 in educational backing.
“It is this carrot as an incentive,” said Councilor Sena. “We’re really trying to keep those that are interested in this program long term as well. As an incentive for staying two years with this department you can have part of your education paid for, which is very similar to what we already do for our other departments.”
Although the nearly $3 million was not the original $7.5 million sought from by Mayor Keller, city councilors said the pandemic has created a number of priorities they believe this budget addresses.
“We have held our employees harmless,” said Councilor Pat Davis. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to give raises to our city employees, which was really our intent before the pandemic when the economy was doing so much better.”
Mayor Tim Keller sent a statement Monday following the passage of the adjusted budget:
“This financially sound budget focuses on investing in fighting violent crime, supporting families and small businesses through the pandemic, and strengthens our commitment to public safety with a new cabinet-level department that we will be able to build over time.”
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