Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Due to a lack of public events, combined with a number of cost-saving measures, the number of overtime hours claimed by city of Santa Fe employees has shrunk.
City officials announced in April that the city was facing a projected $46 million deficit for fiscal year 2020, soon followed by another $100 million projected loss for the next fiscal year.
This after the COVID-19 pandemic halted tourism and decimated the local economy. The city’s budget, around 70% of which comes from gross receipts taxes, relies heavily on tourism and hotel stays for its revenue.
A wave of cost-saving measures soon followed, including restrictions on overtime for nonessential employees, which includes most employees not working for the police or fire departments. Finance Director Mary McCoy told city councilors in April the restrictions would save around $500,000.
While it’s unclear how much has actually been saved, it appears to be a significant number.
From April 20, when the budget crisis was announced, until July 31, city employees claimed 44,746 overtime hours – a year-over-year decrease of 24% – for a total of $1.3 million, according to records provided by the city. Nearly all those hours were claimed by firefighters and police officers.
That $1.3 million does not represent the actual money paid by the city, however, as some of it is subject to reimbursement.
Some of the top earners of overtime work for the city’s fire department. One employee, Graham Miller, alone claimed around $16,500 worth of overtime.
But the city’s fire chief, Paul Babcock, said Miller and other firefighters respond to wildland fires in New Mexico and around the country. Some of his crew have already been to Arizona twice this year to fight fires.
When firefighters are deployed to these out-of-district assignments, they usually stay for at least two weeks and claim significant amounts of overtime. State and federal governments generally reimburse Santa Fe for any overtime cost, Babcock said.
Santa Fe has also seen many of its most noteworthy events canceled due to the pandemic, including Indian Market, Spanish Market, International Folk Art Market and Fiestas de Santa Fe. McCoy said employees usually claim overtime when these events happen.
“We would have additional fire and police that were dispatched to these events,” McCoy said.
In addition to overtime restrictions, the city laid off multiple temporary workers and furloughed many others, the latter of which created a backlash against city officials from some employees.
The most recent budget approved by the City Council also left many vacant positions unfilled and transferred some city employees to different departments.
McCoy said Public Utilities might be one of the few departments to not see an overtime decrease.