$58 Million a Year From Parks Sales Tax
When voters went to the polls in 2018 to vote on Measure P — the Fresno sales tax for parks — advocates projected $35-$39 million in annual revenue.
But, as Mayor Jerry Dyer unveiled his Fiscal Year 2023 budget on Wednesday, that figure came in much higher. The city is now anticipating $58 million from Measure P. Combined with a carryover from the prior year, the city will have nearly $75 million to spend on parks, recreation, and cultural arts.
Dyer called the numbers “surprising.”
“It is really, really good news for the people of Fresno. How long will those tax revenues be sustained? None of us know, but we’ll take what we have today,” Dyer said.
Other highlights from Dyer’s $1.727 billion budget:
- Police: Adding 37 positions to bring the department to “fully staffed” at 888 officers. The increases will benefit the bike unit.
- Fire: Adding 24 new firefighters to raise the total to 371. There will be 103 firefighters on the average daily shift, up from 95.
- $40 million for Dyer’s previously announced One Fresno Housing Strategy.
- $89 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
The mayor will formally introduce the budget to the city council on Thursday. Budget hearings are scheduled for June 10-23, with a final vote due by June 30.
The 2022 Fiscal Year budget totaled $1.448 billion.
Amazon Helps With Increased Tax Base
Dyer said the city’s higher tax base is because “the economy is stimulated.”
The unemployment rate was down to 3.8% in April, an all-time low.
“Amazon, quite honestly, has been the single most driving factor for our sales tax revenue. They were accelerated during the pandemic, and that hasn’t slowed down. And so we are getting increased sales tax revenue of $9.5 million,” Dyer said.
Dyer also pointed to increases in property and hotel taxes.
City manager Georgeanne White said increases in home improvement and car sales added to better-than-projected city revenue.
Even with the positive economic news, Dyer sounded cautious.
“History has taught us that what goes up must eventually come down. We must make the most of the local, state, and federal dollars that we have today while preparing for the likelihood of a tapering of these revenues in the near future, which could include a recession,” Dyer said.
The city will store an additional $40 million for its “rainy day” fund.
A Measure P Windfall
Dyer said $62 million of Measure P are already spoken for. The only specific allocation mentioned was $1.5 million for a previously announced neighborhood park near Fresno High School.
In April, the city council voted to purchase the Tower Theatre for $6.5 million, with an undetermined amount coming from Measure P funds.
Current parks will benefit.
“We’re going to see the level of service go up as far as cleanliness and the landscape and also recreational activities going on at all of our current park sites,” city manager White said.
Since this story first published, the city published its budget document listing $16 million for several capital projects paid for by Measure P.
The list includes $1 million for Storyland/Playland, $1 million for Roeding Park, and $850,000 for the Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
The city council on Thursday will discuss asking voters to approve a sales tax dedicated to veterans issues.
City council president Nelson Esparza said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the Measure P projections.
“The economy is on fire, for better or for worse. Will that be a sustainable amount of revenue, the $58 million? It remains to be seen,” Esparza said.
On Esparza’s Measure P wish list — adding new park space on the city’s eastern edge.