By Mayor Alan Webber
In the first 8 months of fiscal year 2020, which began in July of 2019, Santa Fe truly enjoyed the best of times. Every part of our local economy was booming. We saw strong and steady growth in new housing starts in all parts of the market and in all parts of the city. With all of that progress, we never lost sight of the basics: filling potholes, cleaning medians, and addressing public safety.
For the last 4 months of the 2020 fiscal year, the world turned upside down. COVID-19 threatened public health and safety, caused hotels to shut down, restaurants to close, and stores, shops and businesses to shutter. Beloved cultural events were cancelled. Jobs, schools, family gatherings, paychecks, and traditions were all victims of a global pandemic beyond anything any of us had ever seen. Nothing was the same. Nothing was familiar. Many things that used to work suddenly didn’t. That included the City’s finances.
In a matter of weeks we went from revenues that exceeded our estimates and expenditures, to revenues that fell below the budgeted amounts, to a $46 million shortfall for 2020 and a 2021 estimated shortfall that was roughly double that amount. We—all of us—found ourselves in uncharted waters facing unprecedented challenges.
Yet these new worst of times have also called out the best in us.
It is our time to lead, to stand up and to stand together. Santa Fe, we must meet the test of these times, making tough and smart decisions that make our city better today and create a strong foundation for tomorrow.
We presented a budget that does just that.
With this budget we commit ourselves to regular, thorough, and consistent updates throughout the course of the year. Like the rest of the country, like every city in America, we are traveling on a twisting and winding road without a map, guided by our shared values, our commitment to each other, the leadership of the City Council, the hard work and professional competence of our City Manager and department heads, and our firm and unshakeable confidence in the people of Santa Fe.
As you examine the budget, what will you see—and what won’t you see?
Here’s what you won’t see.
You won’t see us turning our backs on the priorities and commitments of the last two years. We won’t jettison our principles or our priorities when it comes to equity, inclusivity, respect, and opportunity for everyone in every part of our community.
You won’t see us turning away from our ongoing effort to put our own house in order; to make Santa Fe government serve all of Santa Fe; and to be more responsive, more efficient, and more effective in the work we do.
This budget builds on the accomplishments of the last two years—particularly on the responsible financial management that has been the hallmark of this administration.
Beyond September 4, you won’t see any furloughs of City employees.
The only City employees who will take a pay cut in this budget are at the director level. No one will lose their job because of the City’s revenue shortfall.
What will you see?
In a time of severe financial challenge, instead of simply cutting City government, we are re-imagining City government.
Last year the budget was a “people first” budget. We invested in the men and women in City government who go to work every day to work for you.
This year the budget is a “community first” budget. We are investing in ways large and small, innovative and traditional, to make life better for everyone in every part of Santa Fe.
The way to do that is to re-imagine and re-shape the way City government works for you.
The first step is a new Department of Community Development will deliver enhanced neighborhood livability and improved economic opportunity across the community.
The second step is to re-imagine the office of the City Clerk. With the transfer of most election functions to the County, the City Clerk’s office is poised to become something our community desperately needs: a welcoming, public-facing front door that opens City government to everyone in the city. By moving Constituent and Council Services into the City Clerk’s office, we will transform it into our Community Engagement Office, an information-and-data rich operation where the whole community can go to get answers to their questions, find updates on City programs and projects, examine records from the past, and offer input toward the City’s future.
The third step is the most forward-looking—and the most responsive to the moment we’re in: the creation of a Department of Community Health and Safety. Here, we re-balance the resources for Police, Fire, and Community Services, and introduce new ways for them to join hands in solving complex community problems, from law enforcement, to fire-fighting, to social services. Working together, we can not only solve problems—we can prevent them from ever happening.
As we go forward into this fiscal year, whether the times get easier or harder, I know that we will embrace this time as our time—our time to work as a community, stand as a community, unite as a community, and succeed as a community.
We will overcome COVID-19. We will re-establish not only our jobs and our economy, our schools and our businesses, but also our celebrations and traditions.
We will come through this time of change and challenge stronger, more resilient, more confident, and more united than ever. Together we are headed for better times and a better future for everyone in Santa Fe.
Thank you to all of Santa Fe,