ABQ Doesn't Have a Budget Crisis; Alleged Deficit Easily Solvable
The alleged deficits for the city's budget for the remainder of this fiscal year and next fiscal year are nothing new and are easily solvable – without tax increases.
All the city has to do is scale back its spending to meet its income. And make no mistake, the city has more revenue coming in this year - $11 million more – than it had last year. And the city will have more revenue next year than it has this year. It's just not as much money as it wants to be able to spend.
So cut back on some stuff.
And let's look at the history of these alleged deficits.
First, there have been deficits projected for the budget since at least FY2010, and all have been dealt with. The toughest was the $64.5 million projected deficit for FY2010, R.J. Berry's first year in office. Berry had to reduce the pay of city workers and break a contract with the police officers union to close that one.
But let's get one thing straight, proposed budgets are nothing but wish lists, and they're based on revenue projections, which are generally always too high. They are documents that say, “This is what we would like to spend if we had all the money we expect and want.”
Well, for the remainder of this year and next year, city bureaucrats and councilors won't get all the money they want. That's because the current budget is based on the presumption that gross receipts taxes revenue to the city would increase by 3 percent over what it was last year.
The problem is that those GRT revenues are now projected to come in at 1.7 percent over what they were last year. But that's still an increase!
So, for the current year's projected deficit of $5.6 million to $9 million. No big deal. City departments generally don't spend all the money in their budgets for any given year. That's because of staff vacancies and other things. In an average year, departments revert a total of $8 million to $12 million in unspent budget money back to the city's general fund.
Those departments have already been told to not spend all of their budgets, and that money will revert back to the general fund, so this year's alleged deficit is already solved.
Now to next year. Again, the city will have more money next year than it has this year. This is straight from Keller's news release on the alleged budget deficits:
“General Fund revenue growth is expected to average 2.4% from FY/19 through FY/22, taking into account all revenue sources.”
So we're being told that the city can't live with revenue increases of 2.4 percent every year.
It can, and it must.
The days of big revenue increases every year that allow city officials to spend on everything they want are over. They've been over since the recession hit in 2007, and will be over for the foreseeable future because of the area's lousy economy.
And in case Keller and the nine city councilors missed the stories I've been writing about the state and Bernalillo County's loss of taxpayers and huge amounts of money, I'll repeat it again. Bernalillo County, and thus the city, have had a net loss of 4,250 taxpaying households since 2010 and a net loss of $491.6 million in adjusted gross income those taxpayers made. It means there are fewer residents to get money from and, overall, less money to tax.
And the county has been trading higher-income households to other states for lower-income ones. In other words, we've been getting poorer.
So instead of digging deeper into the pockets of the people who stayed here, Keller and those geniuses on the council should figure out how to start growing the economy and population again so there will be more, and wealthier people, to tax.