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Fresno Council Pitches Nearly 100 Changes to Mayor's $1.8B Spending Plan
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 10 months ago on
June 12, 2023

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For four days last week, the Fresno City Council met in marathon sessions — more than 26 hours total — to shape the $1.8 billion budget.

They heard from every department, each presenting how money will be spent. Along the way, the councilmembers proposed 96 motions on new way to spend city funds.

The new motions added at least $57 million in expenditures. The mayor’s staff will look to find ways to integrate the new spending. The city council is scheduled to vote on the motions Wednesday. Votes on the overall budget are scheduled for June 22, with an alternate voting date of June 29.

Here are selected highlights:

Police

Police makes up 49% ($245 million) of general fund spending; fire is 17% ($87 million). The city council was generally supportive of Chief Paco Balderrama’s spending plan.

It is tough to say who was the department’s biggest cheerleader. Garry Bredefeld and Mike Karbassi have always been pro-police.

“The left side supports you, too,” Annalisa Perea said with a smile.

Major crime is down, Balderrama told the city council. Compared to last year, homicides are down 54%; shootings are down 16%; and robberies are down 11%. Property crime is down for both business and residential burglaries. Vehicle thefts are down 32%.

The department hired 119 new officers in the past fiscal year, while only losing two per month. The budget has funds to hire 13 new officers, which would bring the total to 900.

The department has three new park rangers hired, with six more coming.

General Budget

Sales tax is estimated at $153 million for FY 2024, a 1.9% increase over the prior year. But budget director Henry Fierro says it is not growing as fast as before. Inflationary impacts and increased borrowing costs are reasons.

Fuel costs for the city are up $1.2 million.

Utilities

The city does not have an exact amount it may raise garbage rates. City Manager Georgeanne White said the public utilities department needs $12 million to remain out of the red.

Councilman Miguel Arias pressed the administration for a number, but no figure was given.

If rates aren’t increased, there could be a hiring and equipment purchase freeze.

Rates, if approved and not rejected by residents through the Prop 218 process, could be in effect Jan. 1, 2024.

My colleague Edward Smith took an in-depth look.

Transportation/Airport

Transportation director Greg Barfield said the 8 million riders on Fresno buses is almost at pre-pandemic levels. His goal is 10 million riders.

Councilman Miguel Arias inquired about a bus line between Community Medical Regional Center in downtown Fresno, and Clovis Community Hospital. He proposed $500,000 for a route. Barfield said such a route would need to undergo legal review.

Wireless internet service on buses could be ready in 45 days.

Arias floated the idea of moving the privately-owned Renzi artwork — vandalized at a building destroyed by fire at Shields Avenue near Highway 41 — to the airport. Airport director Henry Thompson said it is possible. The convention center is another option.

“A Day in the Park” by famed Fresno artist Clement Renzi survived a January fire, but the building was destroyed. The city removed the tiles last week. It is unclear if the city plans to take possession of the art.

Above: A city of Fresno worker removes the art installation “A Day in the Park.” The city may take possession and re-assemble the sculpture elsewhere. (City of Fresno Photo)

Housing

Arias also proposed spending $1 million to purchase the Helm Home as an LGBT youth shelter. The property — at 1749 L Street — is currently owned by the Fresno Housing Authority.

The councilman also suggested that  current properties the city owns, such as the Gottschalks Building on Fulton Street, should be renovated and turned into city offices.

Housing supply was a topic. City Manager White said 6,900 affordable rate units — defined as rent/mortgage and utilities costing no more than 30% of one’s earnings — and 4,100 market rate units in three years will cover 26% of demand.

More two- and three-bedroom apartments are needed, White said.

Public Works

The public works presentation is where the cordial council showed division. Councilman Garry Bredefeld said some districts get much more funding for street repairs and other public works projects.

Mike Karbassi also complained.

White responded to complaints made by Luis Chavez at a news conference last week about not enough repair money being spent in south Fresno.

With solar projects coming online, the city could save $143 million over 20 years.

The city exceeded its goal of planting 1,000 new trees with 1,800.

The department received 6,000 pothole calls and 30,700 graffiti calls for service.

Cannabis

The city projects cannabis revenue at $5.4 million. The FY 2023 estimate is $1.2 million, way down from what was promised ($5 million) during the 2023 budget process.

Only two cannabis retailers are open. The city can issue up to 21 licenses — 19 have been granted thus far. Cannabis director Jennifer Ruiz anticipates nine stores opening in FY 2024. She anticipates more store openings creating more business rather than cannibalizing each other.

White defended the numbers, saying it is a new program and “it is a work in progress.”

In February, the city manager updated timelines for license holders. This includes 120 days to refurbish an existing building or 240 days for a new construction. The clock starts once a building permit is issued. Before a building permit, a license holder needs to complete a Conditional Use Permit.

City Attorney

The department said it needs $2.6 million to maintain the eviction protection program, and $100,000 for immigration defense.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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