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Will Finishing Touches to $2B Fresno Budget Occur in Public?
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 1 month ago on
June 17, 2024

The Fresno City Council is set for a final budget vote this Thursday. Will the remaining negotiations take place in public? (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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After the first round of public budget presentations, the Fresno City Council made only 24 budget motions — far fewer than the usual 100 suggestions to change the mayor’s spending plan.

After a second round of budget hearings, the budget motions swelled to more than 100. The motions added or changed the $2 billion budget presented last month by Mayor Jerry Dyer. The city council scheduled Thursday to approve the final budget — through five different votes.

Dyer’s administration must adjust for the city council’s additional $27 million. Several motions identified where the money would come from — either spending a department’s carryover funds or shifting projects and funding from the existing budget. A mayor’s spokesperson said that “a funding source has not been identified for” $2.6 million.

How the mayor and city council will resolve what is out of balance, and if the mayor will accept the changes, is shrouded in mystery.  In prior years, the administration would meet with a three-member city budget committee away from public scrutiny.

The secrecy method fell out of favor in the last year, with a pending lawsuit from good government groups challenging that process. The lawsuit argued that non-public budget meetings violated the Brown Act — the state law mandating open meetings.

“In the past, (Mayor Dyer) has said he is presenting the budget and then allowing the process to occur with department presentations, motions, etc.” Dyer spokesperson Sontaya Rose said.

Dyer declined to elaborate on the remaining process.

City Council President Annalisa Perea did not respond to GV Wire to comment on what happens next.

A Sample of City Council Changes

Dyer found a way to trim a projected $47 million budget deficit to keep the budget balanced — as required by city law. One plan was not filling existing empty jobs.

Nelson Esparza wanted to keep jobs in the city council districts, at a cost of $203,700. He motioned “to remove the attrition from the City Council Districts operational budget.”

The single most expensive motion came from Mike Karbassi — proposing $3.5 million to realign Beechwood Avenue in his northwest District 2.

The project, Karbassi said, can be spread over multiple years. He did not identify a source of the money. Late Friday, Karbassi said he will withdraw his motion “in order to help balance the city’s budget amid a staggering deficit.”

“It served its purpose to draw attention to the ongoing traffic issues facing the Orchid Park neighborhood, including the need for more parking stalls to accommodate the overflow of residents using this park,” Karbassi said.

The councilmember said the project already has $400,000 set aside from a prior budget and it will remain.

Maxwell Saves Eviction Protection Program

Tyler Maxwell stirred the most drama during the process, saying he came close to scrapping the Eviction Protection Program — championed by Maxwell, but not funded to continue under Dyer.

Maxwell proposed $2 million to keep the program alive, financed by carryover funds from the City Attorney’s Office.

“When you’re facing a deficit … it’s difficult to balance citywide needs with the needs of your specific district. Sometimes you don’t want to compromise resources for your own district for a citywide program. But after seeing the results that the city attorney showed me … the results spoke for itself,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell made 29 other budget motions last Wednesday — all but three identified a funding source. Three of the unsourced motions costing $1.2 million total were for “design and construction for 3rd floor exhibit at City Hall,” an economic study around Fresno Yosemite International airport, and improvements at the Roessler Winery, located within a city park next to the nonprofit Discovery Center.

Of the 111 motions, Maxwell proposed the most at 31 (including one made during the first round of presentations).

Garry Bredefeld wanted to keep fire department staffing for four medical squad units — smaller vehicles that serve some medical calls, sparing a heavy fire truck unit wear and tear. After much debate, he proposed “not making additional future payments to the overfunded retirement system.”

That did not go over well with Brandon Griffith, vice president of the firefighter’s union, Fresno City Firefighters IAFF Local 202.

“We are adamantly against doing that,” Griffith told the council last Thursday. “It’s a scary thing to do, and opens up doors to places we don’t want to go.”

Bredefeld’s plan will continue funding the firefighter’s retirement plan at previous levels, but not increase the city’s share.

If a final budget vote does not take place Thursday, the city council reserved June 27 as an alternate voting date. By city law, a balanced budget must be approved by June 30.

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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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