Rio Rancho Municipal Court and Governing Body are hoping to clear up any differences they may have had as it pertains to pay increases for court employees.  

In its preliminary fiscal year 2022-23 budget, the city is proposing two, 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment increases for its employees.  

G. Robert Cook

Municipal Court Judge G. Robert Cook wants his staff to get a piece of that pie. 

The court made several requests in its proposed fiscal year 2022-23 budget, including a little more than $61,000 that would go toward two, 2 percent COLA increases for all 10 of its employees, as well as one-time $500 stipends to four employees. 

The request comes at the heels of the municipal court conducting a compensation study with the help of the city’s human resources department.

The plan compared the department’s pay scale with municipal courts in Las Cruces and Santa Fe, communities similar in size, Cook told the Observer. 

“This is a first step toward making this better for everyone,” Councilor Bob Tyler said.

Spirit of cooperation

In January, three people came to the council chambers and protested the lack of raises for municipal court employees, including Municipal Court Administrator Angel Mascarenas. 

She asked the governing body to delay the vote on budget adjustments until court employees could propose equal pay raises, the Observer reported. 

Mayor Gregg Hull said at the time that the judge hadn’t submitted a budget adjustment request for the governing body to consider and had told the city administration not to interfere with the court budget or pay. The court operates separately from the rest of the city budget to a large degree. 

How could the governing body consider giving the court more money when it hadn’t asked for it, Hull asked at Wednesday’s work session. 

Even if the COLA increases are approved by the governing body, Hull, in his budget message, said he would like the city to evaluate whether its revenues were meeting projections in December to see if January is the right time to allocate that second 2 percent COLA increase. 

“I’m very satisfied and very happy that this appears ready to pass,” Cook said about the possibility of the pay hikes.

The court would not ask for the raises if the city decided not to give COLA increases to its other employees, he said.

This is an opportunity for the municipal court and city to cooperate with one another, Cook added.