City commissioners consider cuts

Thomas Garcia

More than 50 Tucumcari residents attended Thursday’s city commission meeting where the reduction in funding for the city sports leagues was discussed.

“I’ve coached volleyball and basketball for three years, and if you take these sports away from them, what else will they have?” Tucumcari resident Diana Dominguez said. “My daughter is a part of these sports.”

Dominguez said there is little to do in the city and taking activities for kids may cause more trouble.

“I would like to clarify that we are not doing away with sports,” Mayor Jim Witcher said. “We are discussing not paying for officials and uniforms.”

Witcher said the facilities will remain open and the leagues in place. He said the sports organizers would have to seek volunteers to officiate and pay for uniforms.

“We are asking for the parents to volunteer to officiate,” Witcher said.

The city is currently working on balancing the budget and cuts have been proposed in every department, said City Manager Bobbye Rose.

“We looking at every department, not just recreation,” Rose said. “We have to identify what is essential and non-essential services. It’s never easy when that may affect programs designed for the youth.”

Resident Gary Montano received a copy of the city’s budget through the Freedom of Information Act and requested clarification on several items from the commissioners and Rose.

“There are vacant positions in the city. Why can’t the salaries set aside for those positions be used to pay for the officials in the youth leagues?” Montano asked.

Montano referenced several grants, including a homeland security grant for $200,000. He said there appears to be money in the budget.

Rose said there are rules and requirements on the grants the city receives which prohibits the use of the funds for anything but their intended purposes.

“The homeland security grant must be used in a capacity approved by that agency,” Rose said.

Rose said several of those vacant positions are being considered for termination altogether. She said the elimination would include the cutting of one police position, one wastewater employee, a part-time librarian, city risk manager and two full-time dispatcher positions.

“Currently all those positions are vacant,” Rose said. “Even with the elimination of those positions which will generate $248,000, we are still looking at a $500,000 shortfall in the general fund. Bottom line, the budget must balance out.”

Montano said there was an issue with the amount of overtime paid to the police department.

“Much of that overtime includes court time for the officers,” Rose said. “An officer simply is not done as soon as the arrest is made. They have to attend court following those arrests. The officer also must attend training to maintain state certification.”

Several citizens asked why the city had not been applying for grants for the youth programs.

“We have a wonderful grant department which has brought in over $12 million dollars for large projects,” Rose said.

There are grants out there for youth sports programs, but the problem is finding one which the city qualifies for, said Tucumcari community development project coordinator Yvette Fazekas.

“Each grant has requirements an applying entity must meet in order to qualify,” Fazekas said. “At times several entities are applying for the same grant.”

The commission voted to table any action or further discussion involving the youth sports league. A budget workshop has been set for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. It will reconvene at 5:30 p.m. for residents to attend and discuss the youth sports funding.