Category Archives: Announcements

City leaders eye new taxes, more use of utility reserves

By Daniel J. Chacón

 

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales and at least half of the City Council on Tuesday proposed that the city raise taxes and continue to tap the city-owned water utility in the form of a $4.7 million franchise fee to help close an estimated $15 million budget shortfall.

The proposal, intended to provide city staff with a framework as they draft a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, also calls for $4 million in unspecified spending cuts and $2.5 million in increased debt collections and fees to help close a the projected budget deficit.

Meanwhile, Gonzales said during his annual State of the City address that he also wants to use millions of dollars in water utility surplus funds — built up after years of rate increases — to fight poverty and combat climate change.

The mayor proposed that the city invest $50 million in cash reserves from the city water division with the State Investment Council. He declared that he would do “everything in my power” to get city councilors to support what he calls the Santa Fe Verde Fund, an initiative he discussed when he ran for mayor two years ago.

“The Verde Fund will operate essentially as an endowment, generating annual revenue between $1.5 million and $2 million,” he told a crowd at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. He added that the money could be invested in a way that “ensures it is there when the water fund’s infrastructure and debt requirements need it.”

Gonzales said in an interview that the proposed fund would allow the city to put the money “into a vehicle that will generate revenues” and “start putting more money into our sustainability initiatives and our efforts to fight poverty.”

“Right now, basically it’s earning a fraction, if anything, to house that money in banks that charge us for actually storing that kind of money in their banks,” he said. “This is an effort to really put that money to work while it’s sitting in the water company until we need it in the future to fund these kinds of initiatives.”

Even if the council moves forward this summer with a plan to pay off $34 million in bonds issued to help pay for improvements to the water system, he said, “that will still leave sufficient money to have that $50 million in play for at least the next three years.”

Gonzales also announced plans to ask the council, after it develops a balanced budget, to approve creation of an Early Childhood Commission to oversee a citywide early-childhood education program, including full-day pre-kindergarten. That was another idea he proposed while on the campaign trail.

During his speech, the mayor said that if the proposed commission identifies a need for a dedicated source of revenue and can present a detailed plan that “shows exactly what we would be getting for our investment, I will ask the City Council to enact a portion of our property tax mil levy to back it up.”

In the interview later, Gonzales said, “Right now, we would wait to see how much is needed, if anything. It’s hard, right now, to say what that would be because we don’t know until we get this initiative started what the costs would be and at that point we’ll clearly be able to determine what the impact on a homeowner would be.”

While some councilors declined to comment about the mayor’s proposed initiatives, saying it was the first time they had heard about them or didn’t know the details, his speech generated mixed opinions from audience members.

“Loved the vision, hated the math,” an unidentified woman in the audience said.

The mayor’s remarks came shortly after the council’s Finance Committee voted 3-1 on Tuesday to recommend approval of a deficit-closing “framework” that includes $3.8 million in new taxes. Councilors Signe Lindell, Ron Trujillo and Chris Rivera voted in favor of the proposal while Councilor Joseph Maestas voted in opposition, saying he couldn’t support such a tax hike proposal.

“I think we just need to work a little harder at solving this situation without raising taxes,” said Maestas, who recently championed a 2-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax to raise money for street improvements, which his colleagues shot down in January.

Councilor Carmichael Dominguez, who chairs the Finance Committee Committee, co-sponsored the budget “framework” measure.

“We must move ahead to remedy this deficit,” said Dominguez, who has held office for 1o years and served as Finance Committee chairman for several years. “Tough decisions are always going to have to be made. But the consequences of not doing anything or delaying this, I think, are irresponsible and, quite frankly, in my opinion, they’re very unacceptable.”

The full council is expected to consider a budget resolution at its meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10, at City Hall.

Former Councilor Karen Heldmeyer, who frequently monitors City Hall meetings, said the proposed framework endorsed by the committee will affect all Santa Fe residents financially.

“To raise money in this proposed budget, it’s not just taxes,” Heldmeyer said. “It’s also franchise fees and other increases in rates. Whether it’s a rate or a tax, people are going to pay more.”

Gonzales, who had said in recent months that the city shouldn’t “rush to raise taxes or fees,” said in the interview following his speech that the city has few options.

“The truth is, as we became more involved in the detailed aspects of the budget, it became apparent that we couldn’t cut our way completely out of this deficit,” he said. “It became very apparent that we couldn’t raise taxes to cover it, so it had to be an assortment of solutions that came to the table.”

Lindell called the proposed $4.7 million franchise fee to be charged to the water utility “reasonable.”

“If that were a privately run company, which that’s what we ask enterprise funds to be — to operate as if they were a privately run company — we would be charging that, so it’s reasonable enough to charge that,” said Lindell, the other co-sponsor.

Lindell said she would support a combination of a gross receipts tax increase and a property tax increase.

“The city hasn’t raised their share of the property taxes in this city for eight to 10 years,” she said. “I know that people get property tax increases, but those have come from the county and from the different educational institutions. The city itself has not gotten one cent of increased property tax.”

The proposed framework calls for closing the budget deficit in a year. Other proposals the committee had previously considered called for a multi-year strategy and taking or borrowing money from the Water Division, a practice that councilors voted to end last year.

“We made a promise to the citizens of this city that we would not raid the water fund again,” Lindell said, “and I think that it’s important to keep that promise.”

 

Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 505-986-3089 or dchacon@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.

 

Santa Fe City Council Approves Resolution to Study Impact of a Public Bank for Santa Fe

The Santa Fe City Council approved a resolution to move forward on a study of the long-term benefits of a public bank for the City of Santa Fe. The resolution was sponsored by Mayor Javier Gonzales and Councilors Peter Ives and Joe Maestas. They were joined by Councilors Patti Bushee and Carmichael Dominguez, who asked to be added to the list of sponsors at this meeting .

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Public Banking Call to Action: Attend the Santa Fe City Council Meeting — October 29

Banking on New Mexico encourages you to attend the next meeting of the Santa Fe City Council to help move public banking forward. After approval by City of Santa Fe’s Finance Committee on October 20, 2014, the resolution for a feasibility study of the benefits of a public bank will be on the agenda of the Santa Fe City Council on Wednesday, October 29, 2014.

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City of Santa Fe Finance Committee to Consider Feasibility Study for a Public Bank

The Finance Committee of the City of Santa Fe will convene for a regular meeting in the Santa Fe City Council Chambers at 5:00 pm on Monday, October 20, 2014. On the agenda is:

23. Request for Approval of a Resolution Directing Staff to Analyze the Potential Opportunities of Establishing Public Banking Functions for the City of Santa Fe and Projecting Whether a Public Bank Would Provide a Long Term Benefit for Local Businesses and Residents.

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Public Banking in the Press – Symposium on public banking planned today as city explores feasibility

From The Santa Fe New Mexican:


Symposium on public banking planned today as city explores feasibility

Posted: Friday, September 26, 2014 7:00 pm | Updated: 12:30 am, Sat Sep 27, 2014


By Daniel J. Chacón

The New Mexican

Mayor Javier Gonzales says that while he was on the campaign trail, an old friend told him about a local movement to create a public bank.

Gonzales had already heard about a public bank in North Dakota but hadn’t given much thought to one in Santa Fe or even New Mexico.

“As I got more into the campaign and learned the stories and the challenges of Santa Fe and recognized that access to capital and new funding sources were limited, the idea of a public bank became more and more important to me,” he said Friday.

If he was elected mayor, Gonzales told himself back then, he would explore the idea further.

Continue reading Public Banking in the Press – Symposium on public banking planned today as city explores feasibility

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzalez: Public banking worth exploring in Santa Fe

Santa Fe Mayor, Javier Gonzalez, talks about the importance of the Banking on New Mexico Symposium: Funding Local, Sustainable Economies for the City of Santa Fe.

The Symposium is happening today, Saturday, September 27, 2014 from 10:30 am to 9:00 pm, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. Registration for the Symposium starts at 9:30 am at the door. The registration fee is $40.

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Craig Barnes in the Press — Public bank can make sense for NM

From the Op-Ed pages of The Albuquerque Journal:


Public bank can make sense for NM


By Craig Barnes / Founder, We Are People Here!

PUBLISHED: Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 12:02 am

According to recent reports, of all the states in the union, last year New Mexico had the second-highest poverty rate. More than 20 percent of us, one out of every five, lived below the poverty line.

Surely New Mexicans are no less hard working, no less intelligent, no less innovative, but still general prosperity is elusive. Something is not working.

Listening to voices from across the state, to small business, to the Native American community, to the un-banked, to city councilors and mayors, a constant report is that we are experiencing consistent needs that our current system of financing cannot or does not reach. The state has substantial oil and gas revenues, a massive federal presence and a robust tourist industry. Still, for some reason, the money does not reach enough of us to keep us from coming in second among all the states as the most poor.

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Public Banking in the Press — Report from Finance New Mexico about Public Banking and Banking on New Mexico Symposium

From The Santa Fe New Mexican:


Finance New Mexico: Public banking gets a hearing at symposium

Posted: Monday, September 22, 2014 7:00 pm


For The New Mexican

With tighter credit standards that have resulted in fewer loans since the recession of 2008, some are backing an effort to open a publicly owned and managed bank in New Mexico. These advocates are holding a symposium starting 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center to educate the public and decide how to proceed.

State Rep. Brian Egolf, a Santa Fe Democrat, has pushed for a statewide public bank for years, arguing it would keep more money at home and make it easier for businesses to secure capital. Fellow legislators have rejected the idea for two successive years, so backers have scaled down the idea to a publicly owned bank in just one New Mexico community: Santa Fe. They have the support of Mayor Javier Gonzales, who sees it as a resource for cash-strapped local businesses.

Other speakers include Richard Wolff of the University of Massachusetts; Gwendolyn Hallsmith of the Public Banking Institute; Craig Barnes, founder of We Are People Here!; as well as other city leaders and financial experts.

Continue reading Public Banking in the Press — Report from Finance New Mexico about Public Banking and Banking on New Mexico Symposium

Craig Barnes in the Press — Bringing Democracy to Banking

From the New Mexico Mercury:


Bringing Democracy to Banking

September 15, 2014


By Craig Barnes


Inequality has returned to the United States. Americans are now faced, not only with huge disadvantages in economic competition; politically, we are faced with the rise of a new ruling class. This year’s elections will feature cascades of money from billionaires, dwarfing the contributions of individuals for whom politics used to be, but no longer is, a way to seek revival.

This coagulation of riches that now threatens to clog the politics of the country has rendered our national Congress inert.  The global banking system that used to provide financing for local business, for construction, for advances in health, education and welfare, has turned its attention to the Wall Street derivatives market; turned away from local requirements to prefer instead the global casinos of algorithmic chance. Community banks, locally owned banks, banks that had a direct relationship to the communities that they served, are becoming an endangered species while the big five banks no longer know the names of the families or businesses, the borrowers that they have packaged together in Collateralized Debt Obligations. To keep this whole scheme going, the financial industry, alone, has descended upon Washington DC with over 12,000 lobbyists. Any head-on assault by activists and concerned citizens, any resistance, runs into this overwhelming financial industry defense.

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An Invitation: To Be Inspired and Informed at the Banking On New Mexico Symposium – September 26-27, 2014

History suggests that at least two important conditions precede social change: One is education about society’s true conditions, an education that has to spread out from the elite to the general population. The very well established, of course, naturally delay or debunk such education because they don’t much like the change that may come with it. As a Kenyan activist once said when asked why he did not go after corruption at the highest levels, “The big fish don’t fry themselves.” The one thing that loosens plutocracy’s control, therefore, seems to be a deepening awareness of society’s true conditions that gradually spreads to the general public.

But there is another very important ingredient for social change to happen. From some source must come inspiration. A politician, a poet, a musician, draws up a vision and lifts the dream for all people of new possibility. “I have a dream today!” cries out Martin Luther King, and when that vision combines with broadly held information, or knowledge, then there may be something like a ripple or a wave that spreads through the culture and change may happen.

Continue reading An Invitation: To Be Inspired and Informed at the Banking On New Mexico Symposium – September 26-27, 2014