Rio Rancho City Hall

The recommended City of Rio Rancho budget for next fiscal year includes two new police officers, extra money for residential street repair, pay raises for city employees and investments for the future.
The recommended budget from Acting City Manager Peter Wells projects revenues of about $71 million and spending around $63.7 million in the general fund for the fiscal year running from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022.
The Rio Rancho Governing Body is scheduled to take public comment on the budget at its regular meetings on May 13 and 27, both starting at 6 p.m. Governing body members are set to adopt a budget May 27.
As per the city charter, the city manager recommends a budget and the mayor responds with his own recommendations before city councilors vote.
Wells proposed holding in reserves an amount equal to 60.6 percent of expenses, or $38.5 million, much of it left from having more revenue than expected this fiscal year.
“While some may suggest spending levels significantly greater than what is recommended in the FY 2022 budget, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the full impacts of the pandemic are still unknown,” he wrote in the budget.
Mayor Gregg Hull suggested additional expenditures using some of that reserve money.
“While my suggestions for the FY 22 budget draw upon reserves, what would remain in place is well above 25 percent,” he wrote.
State regulations require local governments to maintain reserves equal to 8.3 percent of expenditures, and city policy mandates 15 percent. Hull and Wells recommended changing city policy to reserve 25 percent.
They also agreed on establishing a permanent fund with $10 million to generate ongoing revenue from investments. For it to be created, the charter review committee would have to recommend it to the governing body, which would have to put it on the ballot for next March. Voters would decide whether to establish the fund.
Other highlights of the recommended budget follow.
• Public safety: Wells’ recommendations include $447,000 to replace eight police vehicles, and $210,000 to replace an ambulance. Hull requested two new entry-level police officer positions, including vehicles and equipment, for $235,000.
“The city’s long-term general fund revenue and reserve levels are projected to be adequate enough to account for these new positions,” Hull wrote.
• Roads: Wells recommended earmarking just more than $1 million for patching and sealing cracks in 16 miles of residential streets. Hull wants to add another $700,000 to that effort.
Also, Wells advised allocating $1 million to reconstruct Riverside Drive from Honduras Road to NM 528.
Hull proposed another $4 million to reconstruct, widen and install a sewer line along King Boulevard from Unser Boulevard to Wilpett Drive. He said it would support commercial development there.
• Economic development: Wells advocated transferring $150,000 to the Local Economic Development Act Fund for incentives to attract businesses to Rio Rancho. Hull proposed another $252,000 on top of Wells’ recommendation.
• Employee pay raise: Wells’ budget factors in 2 percent cost-of-living adjustments for city employees, whom he called “local government’s most important resource,” contingent upon union negotiations. Hull proposed raises of 4 percent.
Only municipal court employees are excluded from that raise, but they received pay increases last August.
• New positions: Hull and Wells agreed on establishing four new positions.
“In particular, I believe the additional planner position in the Development Services Department is needed and will be extremely beneficial to address growing demands for service from the business and development community, and to work on critical planning documents for the city,” Hull wrote.
The planner would cost $82,600 in salary and benefits.
Wells also suggested $65,000 in salary and benefits for a civilian to handle requests for police records; $72,700 for a Public Works Department administrative manager to oversee projects funded by the federal government, the state and general obligation bonds; and $79,500 for a Human Resources training specialist.
• Quality of life amenities: Wells recommended $206,000 to replace park maintenance equipment and $404,000 for improvements and a new restroom and concession building at the Sports Complex North. Hull suggested no changes there.
• Long-term planning: Wells recommended $70,000 for long-range plans, such as the comprehensive plan. Hull advised adding $75,000 for an affordable housing study.
“While some data already exists that suggests Rio Rancho has a shortage of affordable/workforce housing, unfortunately most discussions surrounding this topic are met by self-serving, red herring, anecdotal and unsubstantiated feedback,” Hull said. “I believe a comprehensive study will verify our need and provide additional information so that the governing body and planning and zoning board can make more informed and data-driven decisions in the future.”
• Municipal court: As an elected official, Municipal Judge Robert Cook proposes his court budget.
Wells wrote that Cook’s recommended budget includes an increase of $91,300 for public-defender fees, restoration of travel and conference expenses, postage, leases and software. Cook also requested an additional $44,800 to restore a senior clerk position cut during the pandemic.
More information
Wells’ recommended budget and Hull’s response are available at rrnm.gov/4633/Recommended-FY-22-Budget.

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