Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bhasker: Socorro In Revenue Bind

By John Larson
Mountain Mail

SOCORRO - A radical drop in gross receipts tax has put the City of Socorro in a spending bind, according to comments made by Mayor Dr. Ravi Bhasker at Monday night’s city council meeting.
Bhasker said the drop was about $100,000, which the city had earmarked for retention pay for police officers, firefighters, and EMTs.
“This represents about a three million dollars drop in business,” Bhasker said. “Most comes from construction, but it also comes from retail sales.”
The proposed plan calls for adjustments in the payment of police officers, based on merit. It does not affect their basic salaries.
Merit pay will be based on time on the force, and satisfactory evaluations, and is needed to prevent a high turnover of employees, Bhasker said.
The resolution states that annual retention pay increments begin after an officer has been employed for three complete calendar years.
Those who have been on
the police force for three years
will receive an extra $50 per pay period.
After completing six years, an officer will get an extra $75 per pay period.
After completing nine years, there will be an extra $100 per pay period.
Merit pay for firefighters/ EMTs will be based on standby shift duty, certification level, and years in service. Their extra pay ranges from $120 to $180 per standby shift.
Bhasker advised the council that the resolutions not be considered until the Jan. 18 council meeting.
“I’m not opposed to the resolution, but just to making sure we have the money,” he said.
The Retention Pay resolution was based an average of GRT funds coming in December over the past five years.
“We have been very optimistic in the past,” Bhasker said. “But now we need to wait to commit ourselves until we know we have the funds.”
He said he will contact the Department of Finance and Administration. “The Tax and Revenue Department has no transparency,” Bhasker said. “We need to investigate how it dropped that much. It represents about a $3 million drop in business, sales, and construction.”
He said if “[gross receipts tax] continues to fall, I can offer some alternatives to the retention pay.”
The expected December GRT payment is from October revenues, said Councilor Donald Monette..
“What’s down is construction. Actually retail sales were up a little in October,” Monette said. “We’re now trying to get an answer from the DFA.”
Councilor Michael Olguin Jr. suggested that if the Retention Pay resolution is passed in January, that it could be worded so that the merit pay is retroactive to Jan. 1.
Other city workers receive bonus pay every year – designated salary adjustments – that is meted out over a three-month period.

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