Proposed ABQ tax hike seeing varied reaction
Kai Porter and Caleb James
March 02, 2018 10:10 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Albuquerque is facing a $40 million budget deficit, and city leaders are considering a tax increase that wouldn't need the approval of voters to help plug the hole.
The proposed increase would be in the form of a three-eighths of a percent raise on the gross receipts tax – a tax on businesses often passed on to consumers. Different groups have varying thoughts on the potential hike, which will be deliberated over on Monday.
Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta said the proposed tax increase to fix the Albuquerque Police Department is just one of the city's needs right now. This year has churned quite a financial storm as health insurance costs increase for the first time in six years and vehicle fleets need replacing. The city is already in a deficit.
"Things of that nature that had been stalled or deferred in the past are catching up with us," Bhakta said.
Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, supports the increase that is estimated to bring in more than $43 million in just its first year.
"This is the difference between life and death for the Albuquerque Police Department," he said. "There really aren't very many options. There's definitely the need for additional revenue to solve this problem,"
That problem being a major officer shortage that the city is planning to tackle. On Friday KOB learned APD could use some of the revenue to hire 400 more officers over the next four years to reach a staffing goal of 1,200.
But that plan will cost $88 million.
"I think that if we fund public safety in the appropriate fashion using this new revenue of tax increase, citizens are going to find themselves not having to go out of their own pocket, in a more broad fashion, from their own pocket to keep them and their families safe," Willoughby said. "The cost of crime in our community is massive."
A 17-page budget deficit report concludes leaders must find more revenue to keep the city working. A section of the report lists dozens of options for increasing income:
- Increase some transportation fees for APS students.
- A proposed 10 cent per gallon gas tax.
- A proposed 10 percent increase at aquatic centers around the city.
- Cut a million dollar annual subsidy to Explora Children's museum.
The list includes potential city employee furloughs, but right now they're just ideas to guide policymakers.
"They will have to weigh the pros and cons and have to decide which ones are the least painful options," Bhakta said.
Meanwhile, Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation, a local think tank, says they don't support the tax increase because he feels there are other ways for the city to raise revenue without raising taxes.
"If they do raise this tax, we'll be up to 51 percent since the year 2000 on the gross receipts tax," he said. "That's not just Albuquerque – that's the county, the state and the city all combined to increase that tax really, really rapidly and very high. It's economically hurtful."
If the City Council approves the tax hike, it will take effect in July.
Kai Porter and Caleb James
Updated: March 02, 2018 10:10 PM
Created: March 02, 2018 05:07 PM
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