During its July 20 meeting the Socorro City Council agreed to address its budget adoption for a later date.
According to Resolution No. 001A 2020-2021 Budget Adoption released by the City “It is the majority opinion of this board that the proposed budget meets the requirements as currently determined for the fiscal 2020-2021 year.”
That budget included regular maintenance and operational items for the following:
• A 1 percent annual salary anniversary increase
• Short-term salary adjustment for full-time and part-time permanent city employees
• Meter reader software upgrade for gas and water
• Health Insurance split with a City portion of 68 percent and employees portion 32 percent
• A zero percent increase on the health insurance plan with True Health, with a zero percent increase premium for a dental plan with Delta Dental and a zero percent increase of life insurance plan with Met Life, with no increase on short-term disability and no increase in AD&D or dependent life
Also included in the resolution are “additional funding for various capital improvement projects such as Wastewater Treatment Plan improvements, Wastewater Collection System, MAP Street Projects, airport construction … and any other funds for which the City is acting as fiscal agent and operational items as needed to meet the needs of the City and its citizens.”
Councilor Nick Fleming made a motion to pass the final budget.
Mayor Ravi Bhasker asked for a second to the motion before discussion could commence.
“I’m of the opinion that this budget doesn’t in fact reflect certain components … of the current economic conditions that the citizens of Socorro have been working under and working in the past, present and the future,” said Councilor Anton Salome. “I just feel that with this pandemic, there’s a lot of uncertainty that we’ve gone to funding with the municipality’s budget. So with regard to funding this budget, extending funds without the certainty of knowing how we will continue to fund these things with regard to the economic downturn that this pandemic has caused.”
Salome went on to say that the governor (Michelle Lujan Grisham) has implemented numerous restrictions and what he is worried about and afraid of is that in order to keep the funding at a level that is in support of some of the components in the budget, the City will either have to raise Gross Receipts Tax again, or will have to raise property taxes.
“Or we will have to raise utility rates on the residents of Socorro who have been economically damaged by this pandemic,” Salome said. “I would suggest that we revisit this budget and take into consideration the negative effects of this pandemic.”
Bhasker asked what the net increase or decrease in the total budget would be.
“You’re making a point saying that we’re doing something that may wreck our ability to cover the budget,” Bhasker said. “So I want to know what you think is the net increase or decrease that would cause changes.”
Salome said three months ago in April, when the pandemic first started there were 15 layoffs.
Bhasker said there were no layoffs in permanent personnel.
“Those temporary people got laid off. Those people had a salary of a certain amount and it went from X to zero,” Salome said. “So I don’t want to see us, if this pandemic continues on and the economic engine that supports us, those folks that are out there, citizens, residents, tax-payers, anything you want to call them, they’re the ones … who provide us with the funding to support us, to support government.
“With the fact that regulations and restrictions from the governor are coming down hand over fist, I think it’s prudent for us to see where this is moving to, before we jump out and start spending those folks’ money who have lost their jobs.”
Bhasker said Salome was making subjective statements and asked Councilor Mary Ann Chavez-Lopez how much of an increase or decrease in payroll were coming.
She said it would cost $123,000, given there is a minimum wage increase in January.
“Out of those 27 people that were laid off, nine of them are recreation and tourism. Those are closed,” Chavez-Lopez said.
“People are receiving less but having to pay more,” said Salome in reference to gyms and recreational athletics being shut down. “It doesn’t make sense to me … I feel like we need to fiscally conservative.”
A motion was made on the floor to postpone the budget decision until July 31.
“Whatever the council would like to do,” Bhasker said.
Councilor Gordy Hicks said he hates to see the motion die, and that the council postpones the vote.
“We’ve got to look at everything in the budget,” Bhasker said. “There’s a motion on the floor to postpone the budget.
That motion was passed unanimously, and the budget will be addressed at a future council meeting.
In other business, Hicks made a motion to approve participation in the South Central Council of Governments for the 2020-2021 fiscal year which was seconded by Councilor Chavez-Lopez.
Resolution 20-07-20B states that the City of Socorro desires to be a participating member in the program and policy development for the South Central Council of Governments, Inc. According to the resolution the SCCOG is agreeing to furnish among the following:
• To implement the work program as established by the SCCOG Board of Directors for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
• Provide the member (the City of Socorro), when requested with technical, grant program planning, economic development, strategic overall planning and management assistance.
• Address problems, issues and opportunities of a regional nature which go beyond single municipal or county jurisdictional boundaries and serve as a liaison and advocate for local governments within the region at state and federal levels.
• And to provide information dissemination about statewide regional and community initiatives to foster greater coordination and efficiency of the programs.
The resolution, which will cost the council and the City $2,663 annually ending June 31, 2021, was approved unanimously.