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Fresno Budget Deficit Climbs to $37 Million. Expense Cuts Ordered.
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 3 weeks ago on
March 22, 2024

The city of Fresno faces a $37 million budget shortfall, Mayor Jerry Dyer said. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Mayor Jerry Dyer said the city could be $37 million in the red during the next fiscal year, which starts in July.

Dyer presented the Fresno City Council a five-year forecast with the grim news. If nothing changes, in five years, the deficit could snowball to $180 million.

“This is eye-popping,” Councilman Mike Karbassi said.

Dyer’s presentation comes two months before his formal budget presentation in May. The city council must pass a balanced budget by the end of June.

Costs continue to rise. PG&E bills are up $4.8 million, an 11% increase over last year. Labor contracts and inflation are also factors.

Sales tax will be 3% behind the Fiscal Year 2024 estimate, although property taxes are ahead, so that’s a wash. But, the city estimates sales tax revenue in the future will slow.

The city is asking all departments to reduce expenses 3%. Hiring is likely to slow down.

The city council and administration spent more than 90 minutes debating the finer points of budget legislation — in the weeds type of stuff.

The city is owed $20 million from utility customers delinquent in payments. A $7 million grant will help provide credits those customers pay back the amount.

Dyer and City Manager Georgeanne White reminded the city council several times this is just a five-year estimate.

“It’s all fake. It’s a five-year projection,” City Councilman Nelson Esparza said, perhaps facetiously.

“It’s throwing a dart with a blindfold on,” Dyer said.

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors received a budget update at its meeting on Tuesday. While numbers were not specific, County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland warned of “belt tightening” because of major projected state budget shortfalls.

Immigrant Committee Ponders Its Existence. Leader Quits.

Following through on a promise made at last month’s meeting, the chair of the city of Fresno’s immigrant-oriented committee quit in frustration, citing a lack of city support for their efforts.

Thursday was Linda Barreto’s last meeting with the Immigrant and Resident Affairs Committee. She was the group’s chair.

“I know that you all feel strongly about me not resigning, but I have made a decision to resign. I just don’t feel supported,” Barreto told the committee. She will leave the board entirely once she formally submits her resignation letter.

IRAC struggles to maintain a quorum, the minimum amount of members needed to conduct business. The committee is supposed to have 15 members, but there are four vacancies. At Thursday’s meeting, the board had a quorum of eight — the bare minimum.

“I just feel that without council doing their thing first, we cannot do our thing,” Barreto said.

Other members also complained about the lack of support, especially from the office of Councilmember Luis Chavez. His office is designated as the city agency that is supposed to provide support. They have not, leaving the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs to provide staffing.

Chavez said he plans to address members’ concerns.

“I’m working on updating the legislation that governs the committee. It’s clear that we need to formally recognize their importance and contributions to the city,” Chavez said.

His resolution would formally recognize IRAC “as part of our governmental policy advisory structure,” and assign the city clerk’s office with meeting support.

“I look forward to their work and recommendations in the future,” Chavez said.

Linda Barreto resigned from the city immigrant affair committee, citing a lack of city support. (GV Wire/David Taub)

SW Fresno Starbucks Delayed

Frappuccino lovers need to wait before a Starbucks opens in southwest Fresno.

“Drive-thrus generate traffic, and traffic generates more safety conditions that have to be considered,” Councilmember Miguel Arias said. “I will not be party or parcel to replicating the disaster that we’ve seen in other neighborhoods into west Fresno.”

The city council, led by  Arias, voted 5-0 to table the development until April 4 to allow city staff to address traffic concerns.

Arias also objected to making the polluted environment in southwest Fresno worse. He noted the proximity to several schools.

The proposed Starbucks — at the southwest corner of Church Avenue and MLK Boulevard — would be unique, as it would include space for community meetings. It would also be part of a larger West Creek Village development that includes more shops and homes.

Advocates said it would be a major investment in a part of the city that has seen scant new development. Opponents were concerned about traffic near schools, especially with the potential of two drive-thru lines.

Developer Jim Shehadey said “time is money” about the delay.

“We absolutely wish it would have been approved today. We understand the complaints, but, I’m not sure how some of the findings were arrived at. But we’re we look forward to working to get this thing through eventually,” Shehadey said.

DJ Criner, pastor of the nearby St. Rest Baptist Church, supports the project and took an optimistic tone.

“We trust the council to do the right thing. The plans are incredible, and we know that God will make it work. So we know Starbucks is coming,” said Criner, who is on the city planning commission.

Arias, Annalisa Perea, Tyler Maxwell, Mike Karbassi, and Nelson Esparza voted to table. Garry Bredefeld recused himself, saying he had received a contribution of more than $250 from the developer. Luis Chavez was absent.

[Correction, 3/22/2024: the original version of this story had Chavez voting for and Karbassi absent. It was the other way around.]

Other City Action

  • Approved Criner to a second term on the planning commission. His term expired last year, but members are allowed to remain until a successor is chosen. The vote was 6-0 on the consent calendar.
  • Voted 6-0 on the consent calendar to empower the city attorney with formal subpoena powers. This would allow the city attorney to subpoena witnesses and paperwork relevant to city investigations. While the city attorney already had such abilities, this codifies it in the city code. A second vote at a future meeting is required.

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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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