The $1.87 billion city of Fresno budget had something for each of the seven city councilmembers. But, one wish list item was not fully funded — road repairs. And there could be a trash rate hike.
Mayor Jerry Dyer and the city council generally congratulated each other after the 7-0 passage on Thursday.
“We differ at times, but on the important things, we agree,” Dyer said.
Compromise was key, City Council President Tyler Maxwell said.
“This is still a budget that every councilmember can and should be very proud of,” Maxwell said.
Trash Rate Proposal Coming
Coming on the horizon is a proposed trash rate hike. Dyer told the media after the vote he will present an increase later this year to the city council. The exact amount is to be determined, but the higher charges could start by next January.
The increases would be over three to five years starting with a small increase.
Dyer said that the garbage collection division is operating at a deficit.
“As a result, we are just going to see those costs continue to escalate as more and more equipment break down,” Dyer said.
Street Repair Budget Less Than Originally Sought
A three-member city council committee met for nearly a week with the Dyer administration to reconcile the budget. Committee member Annalisa Perea estimated there were at least 25 hours of negotiations. After a week’s worth of motions, the budget was $157 million out of balance. City law requires the budget to be balanced.
The city is $1.2 billion behind in infrastructure maintenance, according to Dyer. The final budget did include $2.8 million for each of the seven council districts ($19.6 million). Millions more were axed.
“That’s the one area we have to address,” Dyer said. “It is going to take us a long time to get us where we need to be.”
He touted pothole repair crews in the budget, but admits they are “stopgap measures.”
Dyer also said that $3.2 million for road repairs was taken from a $6 million project for a new police headquarters.
A Balancing Act for City Council President
Maxwell tried to balance all the requests.
“A lot of those priorities were infrastructure based — road pavements and sidewalk repairs, gutters, those kinds of things. Those are the most expensive. And so, unfortunately, we weren’t able to put as many of those in this year’s budget as we would have liked,” Maxwell said.
Councilman Mike Karbassi was happy to get what he could for his northwest Fresno District 2.
“You’re going to have millions of dollars more for slurry seals, curb and gutter repairs. That’s very important. Some of these roads have never been repaved or re-slurried, and that’s going to be really a very big deal,” Karbassi said.
Several members of the public organized a protest to include a rent control measure in the budget. After speaking during the public comment period, they led a loud cheer as they exited the building. Maxwell called for a five-minute recess.
Dyer rejected any rent control measure, saying the city spends $60 million already on rental assistance programs.
“When rent control is implemented, ultimately you have landlords making fewer dollars, and so they are not investing in their property. As a result, we end up with slums within a city. We are trying to avoid that,” Dyer said.
Dyer, Maxwell Hint at Measure C Support
Both Dyer and Maxwell lamented not having enough funding for more street and sidewalk repairs. Both said that if Measure C — a countywide measure to extend the sales tax for transportation projects — passed last year, more money would be available in future years.
“Bringing folks together to figure out what the priorities on both sides are. Like anything, like the budget, it’s a compromise. No side is going to get everything that they want.” — City Council President Tyler Maxwell, on the future of Measure C
Dyer said road repairs need a dedicated source, such as the voter-approved Measure P sales tax for parks and arts.
The half-cent Measure C tax would have raised $6.8 billion over 30 years starting in 2028 for projects throughout the county. However, it received 58% of the vote, well short of the needed two-thirds for adoption.
“Had we passed Measure C last year, we might have had some extra future infrastructure dollars to start bonding against and perhaps even get more of those in the budget. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and all of the council members, including myself, weren’t able to get a lot of those infrastructure dollars in the budget,” Maxwell said.
The current Measure C expires in 2027. Supporters are contemplating a return trip to the ballot next year or in 2026. Voters first passed Measure C in 1986.
Maxwell has a plan for the next Measure C vote to pass.
“Bringing folks together to figure out what the priorities on both sides are. Like anything, like the budget, it’s a compromise. No side is going to get everything that they want,” he said.