Santa Fe City Council postpones vote on city employee minimum wage bump

·3 min read

Oct. 14—The Santa Fe City Council voted unanimously to postpone a vote on providing a $15 minimum wage to city employees after concerns were raised about whether the increase applied to probationary and temporary employees.

The City Council postponed the vote on a resolution establishing the minimum wage until its Oct. 27 meeting to give city staff time to craft a sister resolution that would extend the pay increase to the additional employees.

City Attorney Erin McSherry said the raises, which will come via offers from the city manager, are authorized through a provision in the city's personnel rules that lets the city offer pay increases to in an effort to retain employees. It only applies to permanent employees.

"The overarching, unanimous opinion is we want this to apply to everyone," Mayor Alan Webber said. "We also want to allow for flexibility for individual offers, and we would rather not have it staggered in its application as people come off probation."

Human Resources Director Bernadette Salazar said the city used the emergency retention rule to give employees an opportunity to reject the offer in the case a pay increase would put them in jeopardy of losing federal benefits.

Finance Director Mary McCoy said she believed the pay increase would go into effect by late November, if the council were to approve it Oct. 27.

The increase is estimated to cost about $288,000 for a year, according to a city memo, including increases to both salary and salary-dependent benefits such as employee retirement plans.

According to a city resolution, 217 positions are paid below $15 an hour, spanning nine city departments and 29 job classifications, including nonunion and union employees.

Due to vacancies for those positions — there are 27 — the increase is expected to cost about $185,000 for the current fiscal year.

Webber and Councilors Signe Lindell, Carol Romero-Wirth and Roman "Tiger" Abeyta announced the proposal in September; it would make Santa Fe the first city in New Mexico to offer a $15 minimum wage for city employees.

Since September, all city councilors have signed on as sponsors.

The city's minimum wage is $12.32 per hour. Albuquerque, the state's largest city, raised its minimum wage from $9 to $10.50 an hour in January.

Salazar was not available for an interview, but in a statement said she was hopeful the pay raise would help city recruitment efforts.

In other council news, during opening statements, Councilor Chris Rivera, who was vaccinated, revealed that he recently rebounded from a bout with COVID-19.

He said he diligently wore a mask and was unaware where he contracted the illness. He said he was "extremely ill" for about five days but did not require a hospital visit.

Rivera said he believed being vaccinated kept him out of the hospital.

"I don't know how I got it, it doesn't really matter, but masks, washing hands, quarantining if you do have it, does work," he said.

In other business:

u The council approved a $1,948,419.42 agreement between the city and local contractor Davenport Construction Management to repair and reconstruct Bicentennial Pool.

u The council approved a $1,534,928 contract with Davenport Construction Management to renovate the Santa Fe Train Depot.

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