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Mayor Keller’s 2021 Budget Tackles Ongoing Challenges During the Public Health Crisis

Priority investments proposed for public safety, COVID-19 resilience, and stepping up for small business and working families

Sept. 3, 2020

Following a fiscal year that forced cities nationwide to enact steep budget cuts and employee furloughs or layoffs, Mayor Tim Keller announced a budget proposal today that navigates through Albuquerque’s COVID-19 challenges and prepares the City for more tough times ahead. (The Recession Is About to Slam Cities. Not Just the Blue-State Ones. Badger & Bui, New York Times, 08/17/2020). The budget stabilizes city finances and provides backstops for suffering local businesses and workers during tough times.  It also demonstrates deep commitment to investing in core crime fighting and policing alongside creating the innovative, community-safety department.

“Within two weeks of the pandemic, we took strong measures to cut costs and hunker down for the long run. While times are going to still be tough for the City, we are one of the most prepared  in the nation to weather this Corona storm,” said Mayor Keller. “We demonstrated strong and thoughtful leadership during tough times; and we won’t be knocked off course when it comes our core values and top priorities: lifting up small businesses and working families and our youth, making Albuquerque safer, and looking out for our most vulnerable.”

Public safety continues to be the top priority, and this year’s budget will jump start the Albuquerque Community Safety Department with a proposed initial investment of $7 million in personnel, equipment and contractual services. To help reduce violent crime, the City is fully funding its Violence Intervention Program with over $1 million. It also keeps the administration on track for its commitment to hire 100 new police officers every year, with $2.5 million allocated to bring new officers on board. The City continues to lead on body cameras for law enforcement, putting almost $600,000 to this commonsense reform that brings transparency and will ensure compliance with the CASA and state law. Albuquerque Fire Rescue’s budget allocates over $63 million for staffing, community health training programs, and support for firefighters.

This year’s proposed budget also allocates a significant portion to helping businesses and families navigate the economic impacts of COVID-19. These programs are in addition to the $120 million in accelerated infrastructure projects currently under construction and an additional $50 million in projects to be awarded before the end of the calendar year, providing needed economic stimulus and keeping thousands of workers on the job and earning a paycheck. It is also in addition to nearly $2 million invested this fiscal year. The City will invest over $7 million dollars to support local businesses. This includes $1 million to directly help businesses survive closures or other hardships, $1 million in support for outdoor business improvements and just over $1 million to supply personal protective equipment – as set forth by city council resolutions.

Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta said, “This budget steers the city through very tough times, and does our best to keep a safety net in place to keep businesses afloat, and save jobs and incomes for many families.”

The administration also plans to address contributing factors that lead to public safety concerns by directly investing in safer neighborhoods and communities. Over $10 million will be invested in service contracts for mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence shelters and services to homeless youth, with an additional $4 million in partnership with APS and nonprofits for youth programs that keeps kids off the streets and out of harm’s way and $1.1 million in youth violence prevention. These investments are in addition to the City’s work with the homeless population.

The pandemic exposed cracks in the social safety net and public health systems, which the City will continue to remedy with this year’s investments. Over $20 million has been allocated to provide community-wide COVID testing to vulnerable populations, closing the digital divide that has created barriers for lower-income families with school-aged children, and the expansion of senior citizen programming.

 “The pandemic has taught us that keeping our families safe and our economy healthy go hand and hand,” said Chief Administrative Officer, Sarita Nair. “Our top priority remains the same - to fight crime from all sides. This budget allows us to invest not only in families and local businesses, but our public safety departments, and in the underlying issues that cause violent crime.”

The full budget presentation can be viewed here.