City may have to make cuts

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By David Giuliani

In late July, city officials thought they were done drafting this year’s budget. Now it’s possible that the city may have to cut spending to meet state demands.

The state Department of Finance and Administration has refused to approve the city’s final budget, which the City Council signed off on in late July.

City Manager Sharon Caballero told the council Wednesday that the state is requiring that the city pay off a longstanding deficit in the solid waste utility, which now amounts to $740,000. Additionally, the city is also being asked to do away with some $300,000 from its budget because the state believes that the city didn’t calculate its actual revenues and expenses from last year correctly, she said. The fiscal year started July 1.

“This was a little bit of a surprise,” Caballero said, but she contended the city has a “very healthy” budget.

In July, the council rejected a final budget drafted by an accounting firm because of faulty numbers. Later that month, the council voted for a revised version, despite concerns.

This is the most difficulty the city has had with its budget since the early part of this decade when the state at one point threatened to take over the city’s financial operations.

When Caballero suggested that budget cuts would have to be made to meet the state’s requirements, Councilman Morris Madrid questioned where such reductions would be made. He noted that the solid waste fund was separate from the general fund, which pays for everything from police to parks.

He suggested the city stop using Atkinson and Co., an Albuquerque accounting firm, to help with the budget, recalling the previous problems.

“We need professionals to do this,” he said.

He suggested that rather than making cuts in the city’s general fund, the council should approve a temporary loan from another fund, such as the growing pot of money dedicated for water rights purchases. That way the city would avoid impacting the departments in the general fund, which already have lean and conservative budgets, he said.

Caballero said two finance department employees meeting with a state official today would bring up Madrid’s suggestion.