City Council considers sales tax to address public safety | KOB 4
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City Council considers sales tax to address public safety

Caleb James
February 19, 2018 11:11 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- It's been talked about, but now it's official. Albuquerque city councilors will propose raising gross receipts taxes to pay for the city's police officer staffing crisis. 

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With a municipal budget in the red, the Albuquerque Police Department remains drastically understaffed in 2018. As public safety continues to top Mayor Tim Keller's priority list, the City Council is proposing a fraction of a cent gross receipts tax increase that could potentially generate $51 million in revenue.

The proposal says in part, “public safety will be the first priority for utilizing the additional tax revenues." 

Not everyone thinks the current tax increase proposal truly addresses public safety concerns adequately. There's another hang up for some: councilors want to decide on the tax themselves without sending it to voters.

"We're concerned about the actual bill," said Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Shaun Willoughby. "In the bill, there are no guarantees this money will be going to public safety."

Willoughby said the proposal's wording doesn't explain how the money will be used.

"What we can't afford to do is mess this up," Willoughby said, "because you can't go back to the well over and over again."

City Councilor Ken Sanchez is a co-sponsor of the tax increase proposal. 

"I'll definitely respond to that," Sanchez said asked about the APOA's concern. "Basically, we do not know what the cost will be to bring in more police officers. We're not just looking at salaries we're also looking at new police vehicles, equipment."

Sanchez said councilors won't put a dollar figure on police funding because it would risk limiting it. But no matter how the money is spent, there is also the issue of passing a tax increase without voter input. Sanchez said it's not ideal, but time is the primary concern.

"We had talked about this going to the voters," Sanchez said. "But we believe this is sensitive in the amount of time that we have."

A 2004 tax hike was meant to fund public safety, and Sanchez said it has. However, those taxes have been decreased in the meantime. 

Sanchez said the hope is for city councilors to pass this tax increase proposal by July 1. It will likely see much debate and possible amendments.

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Caleb James

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