Rio Rancho City Hall

The City of Rio Rancho’s budget adjustment includes pay raises for more than 200 employees, plus training for police and equipment for firefighters, while maintaining a large cash reserve.
The Rio Rancho Governing Body unanimously approved the mid-fiscal-year adjustments at their virtual meeting Thursday night.
City Councilor Dan Stoddard thanked financial staff members and Acting City Manager Peter Wells for their hard work on the budget.
“We just need to continue to be prudent until we’re out of this pandemic, for sure,” Stoddard said.
Wells said 70 percent of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union members would receive a pay adjustment. Some non-unionized city employees also get raises under the adjusted budget.
The raises were part of a plan to bring city salaries to within 5 percent of similar positions on the employment market over time, Wells said. They’ll cost a little more than $180,000 for the rest of this fiscal year, ending June 30, and about $375,000 a year in coming years, according to city information.
Wells said he had planned to budget the AFSCME pay adjustments last spring, but the pandemic was expected to severely decrease revenue, so the raises weren’t appropriate. The city has received more revenue than expected, so he recommended the changes now.
Police, dispatchers and firefighters have received pay raises in recent years to make their compensation closer to that offered by other employers. Wells said those adjustments cost about $2 million.
He also said the city would make further salary adjustments in future years.
Mayor Gregg Hull introduced a budget amendment to earmark $10,000 of the cash reserves for an advertising campaign to attract “digital nomads,” or people who work remotely and therefore can live anywhere, to Rio Rancho. He said the advertising company would be chosen via a request for proposals and no one on the city’s Business Community and Economic Recovery Task Force would be eligible due to conflict of interest.
The amendment passed on a 5-1 vote, with City Councilor Jim Owen casting the dissenting vote without comment. He voted for the overall adjusted budget afterward.
Wells said the pandemic had decreased the city’s income from various fees by $800,000 compared to the initial budget. However, gross receipts tax revenue rose more than $6.5 million, largely due to a lot of construction in the city.
The city has cash reserves of about $31.3 million, 50 percent of expenditures and six times what the state requires, he said.
“Because of the still-unknown short-term and long-term impacts of COVID, maintaining a robust reserve is the recommendation of staff and our financial advisers,” Wells said.
In other matters, the governing body:
• Approved the first reading of an ordinance amendment to change the composition of the city charter review committee from all members of the public to four members of the public, two city councilors and the mayor;
• Approved the report of the independent audit of city accounting from last fiscal year. The audit was clean with no problems found. “Seeing a report like this is just a huge accomplishment,” Hull said of financial services staff;
• Approved a $20 million Industrial Revenue Bond to help bio-science company Nature’s Toolbox move to Rio Rancho. The city is a fiscal agent and will not be responsible for repaying the debt; and
• Approved a contract for banking services with Wells Fargo Bank. Financial Services Director Carole Jaramillo said she expected the new contract to save the city $20,000-$50,000 a year.