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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Need A Job? Try The City; Over 800 Vacancies Go Unfilled in Tight Economy, Plus: Bonding With Berry And Benton  

In a city where good paying jobs can be as hard to come by as a green chile cheeseburger in Minneapolis, why does the city of ABQ have over 800 jobs that have not been filled?:

The city has 813 open positions, including some with the solid waste and transit departments. The vacancies make up more than 10 percent of the city's entire staff. Employees have been working additional hours to make up the extra work. Rob Perry, Albuquerque's chief administrative officer, said the vacancies are not necessarily a hiring issue, but a retention problem. Employees are finding better-paying opportunities elsewhere.

Come on, Rob. Folks are lined up end-to-end at these local job fairs and/or leaving the state and we can't find any employees for these city slots? Assume those over 800 jobs paid about $40,000 a year. That's a payroll of over $3 million stimulating the economy.

Whether this austerity is intentional or not, it's also a problem in Santa Fe where the Legislative Finance Committee has repeatedly pointed out state government employment levels are 10 percent below the number authorized.

Meanwhile, the ABQ city council has okayed a $45 million bond issue in addition to the $115 bond package voters will be asked to approve in October. That's not a bad way to stimulate the economy but is using $13 million of the $45 million to speed up bus service (rapid transit) on Central Avenue really necessary? If there is one route where there are few complaints about service, it is Central.

The nine councilors could provide an immediate shot to the economy by going into their neighborhoods and letting constituents know that over 800 jobs are open at the city. Maybe they could pass out Rob Perry's phone number while they're at it?

BERRY, BENTON & BONDING

Councilor Ike Benton says he has "mixed feelings" about using gross receipts revenue to finance the annual debt service on that $45 billion bond package, instead of leaving that money in the $500 million general budget and available for financing the city's day-to-day needs. Mayor Berry points out that in the past perhaps too much bond money has been diverted from the general fund and now is the time to make up for it. Both have a point. . .

The aging city in the years ahead will need more and more infrastructure funds for roads, parks and maintenance of all sorts. But already the CAO is complaining that we aren't paying enough from the general budget to attract workers to run the city thus the over 800 vacancies.

What Benton, Berry and Perry are confronting is a city that has lost its economic momentum with population and job growth slowing to a crawl. If more people were buying homes we would generate more property taxes to finance bigger bond issues for construction projects and also generate more gross receipts taxes for the general fund from shopping and other economic activity. People buy homes when they get good jobs. (Duh.)

Those over 800 vacant city jobs (as well as the state vacancies) provide the kind of salaries that can make homeowners out of employees. So what's the hold-up in the city, Mayor? And what about the state vacancies, Susana and Lt Governor Sanchez?

SPEAK FOR YOURSELF

Memo for Ray Smith, chairman of ABQ Economic Development and president of Klinger Construction. No, not everybody supports calling the Legislature back into session to pass yet another tax package. He says:

Why would anybody not want to have a special session? Everybody is in agreement that we need capital outlay and the tax package. 

No, Ray, hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans believe we have done enough in the tax incentive arena--far too much. Why can't you let all of us support a special session for the $264 capital outlay bill that will be good for your company and its employees instead of engaging in this partisan posturing and throwing an unneeded monkey wrench into the deal? Ray, you and your comfortable neighbors need more tax breaks like Bill Gates needs more Microsoft stock.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Former ABQ city councilor and state legislator Greg Payne has completed a political trifecta. He started out as a Republican, switched to independent and now says disappointment with the GOP regimes in Santa Fe and ABQ has led him to register as a Democrat. Payne has been an election analyst for the blog for a number of years. He is set to graduate from the UNM School of Law in December.

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