City Council Votes For Budget: Furloughs For City Employees
ESPAÑOLA – The Española City council took up the budget Tuesday night to adopt a preliminary budget for the 2016 Fiscal Year which begins July 1.
As previously reported HERE, the city is facing a revenue shortfall this coming year and is having to make cuts to balance the budget. State law mandates that the city provide a preliminary budget plan To the State Department of Finance (DFA) no later than June 1. That meant some hard choices had to be made Tuesday night.
City manager Kelly Duran and Administrative Services Director Joyce Sandoval presented the council with three budget options from which to choose.
- Option 1 met request for improved public safety and the hiring of new police employees by furlough all employees outside public safety, water and wastewater for 7 days. It also reduced the Senior Center employee hours to 32 hours per week.
- Option 2 met the same public safety requests and actually created a small surplus but discontinued operations at the city’s Senior Center and would have moved to partner with Rio Arriba County to provide senior services. It also may have required two positions being eliminated.
- Option 3 attempted to protect all the services and employees but did so by spreading cuts across all departments meaning no increased hires at the police department, and could have left the city in a tenuous financial situation next year.
The Council initially leaned toward Option 3 but city manager Duran urged council members to consider an option that would help pull the city out of the cycle of annual budget crises. Duran favorite Option 2 which would eliminate some operational expenses and eventually create a partnership with Rio Arriba County for providing senior services. Counselors however were hesitant to eliminate the Senior Service program without a transition period. Several seniors were also in attendance to voice their support for maintaining senior services.
The city’s unions represented by Joaquin Maestas promoted Option 1, the employee furloughs. Maestas said that the unions volunteered that option to City Manager Duran as a way to protect employee positions from being eliminated by spreading the burden of cuts over the majority of city workers.
There was some concern from city employees that the furloughs would disproportionately affect nonpublic safety employees. During the discussion it was revealed that under Option 1, the city manager would take 15 furlough days during the year. Deputy Fire Chief Eric Tafoya also stood up and volunteered to take 4 furlough days for himself.
After three hours of debate Councilor Michelle Martinez made a motion to adopt Option 1 but amended it to eliminate furloughs for the Senior Center staff that were already receiving a reduction in hours, and reduced the new position at the police department from sergeant to full-time patrol officer. The City Council voted 3 to 2 in favor of that motion.
This preliminary budget will now be forwarded to DFA in Santa Fe and the finalized budget will be crafted in July. City Manager Duran stated that if revenues allow, the number of furlough days will be reduced.