The Española/Rio Arriba County E-911 Board passed a trimmed $905,727 budget at its July 30 meeting but there were some hard questions to answer after its passage.
Co-directors Joshua Archuleta and Petra Gutierrez presented the Board with three budget options, the third coming from Board members’ request at the June 9 meeting to give employees a $2 per hour pay boost.
The budget has been a challenge since Rio Arriba County Manager Tomas Campos told the Board in May that the County would decrease its contribution of Gross Receipts Tax it collects from $900,000 to $650,000. The remainder of the collected tax would go toward County health operations, such as the ambulance service and supplies.
To make up for the shortfall and give the raises, all five contributing entities would have to put more into the budget. Rio Arriba County and the city of Española are the biggest contributors. The amount they fund the Center would rise from $15,500 this year to $91,449 for the Fiscal Year beginning July 1.
The budget would eliminate two positions and give all remaining employees the raise.
Española Police Chief Roger Jimenez asked Archuleta if the employees would be OK carrying the additional workload created by eliminating the two supervisory positions.
“They’re already doing it,” Archuleta said. “We’re trying to keep this Center going but it’s hard when we’re paying $10 an hour.”
Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Major Billy Merrifield asked whether anyone had contacted Santa Fe County in regard to the $45,000 budgeted for it to contribute. That issue was a separate item on the agenda.
“I know I’m jumping ahead but I think the (Rio Arriba) County attorney should be involved with language for a JPA (Joint Powers Agreement),” he said.
Española City Manager Xavier Martinez asked how solid Rio Arriba’s $91,449 contribution was.
Messages left on Monday morning for Santa Fe County Manager Katherine Miller and Santa Fe County Commissioner Henry Roybal were not returned by press time.
“I know at the last meeting the County manager (Tomas Campos) said the County wasn’t going to put in more than just the GRT (Gross Receipts Tax),” Martinez said. “I think by the end of the meeting he was willing to put in something. I wish there was a representative from the County to respond.”
No representative from the County attended the meeting.
Martinez said the city government’s budget was approved using the third option, giving employees the raise, but also included a $45,000 contribution from Santa Fe County and $91,449 from Rio Arriba County.
The Board unanimously voted for the $905,227 budget, with Merrifield abstaining.
Chama Village Councilor and E-911 Board Vice Chair Matthew Gallegos agreed on the timing of its passage.
“We (Village of Chama) need this budget approved so we can submit ours but without firm commitments there is a $135,000 shortfall,” he said.
The Board also approved a new contract with Advanced Communication, which handles the E-911 Center’s communications. The company was the lowest bidder at $34,376, followed closely by Motorola Solutions at $35,490. The high bidder was Code 3 Service with a bid of $80,100.
Board members peppered Archuleta with questions regarding Advanced’s performance. Some had concerns over dead spots and repeaters that worked locally but isolated law enforcement from central dispatch. Archuleta said that is a continuing problem that will be solved by more repeaters, which they are addressing slowly, but these are not because of Advanced’s performance.
“They’re a good company, fair, smart people and when we call, they come pretty quickly,” he said.
The $34,376 was included in the budget approved by the Board.
The Board has continued to struggle with communicating with Santa Fe County. The budget has a place-holder for a $45,000 Santa Fe County contribution but no one from the Board has been able to communicate with anyone from Santa Fe County.
Merrifield said he knew Campos had reached out to Miller. Xavier Martinez also said he thought Española Mayor Javier Sanchez had tried to contact her and had gotten the same silence.
Gallegos said he understood passing the budget was necessary but without the commitments from the two counties they Board would be back soon trying to fill the shortfall in revenue.