Albuquerque Journal, PoliceOne.com, policeone.com
BYLINE: Dan McKay, Albuquerque Journal
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The money has sat unclaimed for at least 10 years
ALBUQUERQUE — Albuquerque's operating budget for next year will get a $1.1 million shot in the arm from an unexpected source — leftover cash from the police evidence room.
Attorneys recently decided the money, which has sat unclaimed for at least 10 years, is available for city use, and has been included in the $475 million budget the City Council will vote on Monday.
Deputy City Attorney Kathryn Levy said Thursday much of the money was seized from suspects arrested by police between 1995 and 2002, and the statute of limitations has expired for people to make a legal claim on it.
"It's money that's been sitting in the account," she said.
The police department changed its procedures in the last few years so that cash is no longer seized unless it's "part of a criminal act," Levy said.
The city also is working to settle a class- action lawsuit from people who want money seized from them to be returned, but the older $1.1 million won't be affected by that, she said.
City Councilor Dan Lewis, who heads the council's budget committee, is sponsoring the budget proposal. Much of it mirrors the mayor's proposal submitted to the council earlier this year, with some minor changes based on public hearings.
The evidence room cash came to light after the mayor submitted his budget.
Under Lewis' budget proposal, that evidence money would go toward buying police cars and building up reserves. That, in turn, would help free up extra money for libraries, antidomestic-violence efforts and spay-neuter programs to curb the overpopulation of homeless animals.
"We're trying to be responsive to the people" who testified in budget hearings this month, Lewis said.
The substitute bill includes the administration's priorities, such as $3 million for paying off bonds to fund the Paseo del Norte interchange and another $3 million that could be used as cash financing for other capital projects.
The Paseo funding is expected go before Albuquerque voters this fall.
The budget also has enough money to provide a 1 percent raise for employees making less than $50,000, pending union negotiations.
Among the additions in Lewis' proposal:
• $345,000 for six new jobs, including hiring a parttime veterinarian to work full time, a security guard for buses, two "paraprofessionals" for the library system, a parks worker and a zoning-hearing analyst.
• $433,000 to fund cultural programs such as Black History Month, the New Mexico Philharmonic and for the Explora and balloon museums.
• $288,000 for programs aimed at preventing domestic violence.
• $75,000 to fund a third shift of lifeguards and cover other costs at the popular West Mesa Aquatic Center, allowing more people to visit the pool this summer.
• $45,000 to pay for more supplies for the spaying and neutering of animals. The full-time veterinarian is also expected to help that effort.
• $30,000 to ensure there's a full-time police presence at the James Dwyer police substation on Montgomery NE.
Copyright 2012 Albuquerque Journal
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