Fresno City Council Passes ‘Unprecedented’ Budget; Emphasis on Improvement Projects, Public Safety
Fresno City leaders voted to adopt a $1.4 billion budget Thursday, which some called ‘historic’ for its focus on community improvements in underserved areas of Fresno.
“This is to me, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make those key investments, particularly in those disadvantaged neighborhoods that we've never had the opportunity to really invest in,” said City Council President Luis Chavez.
Chavez touted the concentrated funding, especially in South Fresno as part of the vision for Rebuild Fresno, an effort to improve disadvantaged and neglected neighborhoods in the city.
“And when I say disadvantaged neighborhoods, I mean neighborhoods that have not been repaved in over 40 to 50 years. That actually exists in the city of Fresno,” Chavez said.
Councilmember Tyler Maxwell who represents east central Fresno in District 4, said residents there will notice major changes.
“You're going to start seeing your roads getting repaved. You're going to see your sidewalks getting repaired, your trees getting trimmed. You're going to see new bike paths, you're going to see not just improved parks, but new parks around your neighborhoods,” Maxwell said.
Councilmember Miguel Arias emphasized the impact of the budget on people living in Fresno.
“You know who won the most in this budget? Neighborhoods and residents got the most, the most they've ever received in city investments and that's what Rebuild Fresno is about. It's about prioritizing neighborhoods and basic requests of residents,” Arias said.
Esmeralda Soria, who represents District 1, which includes the Tower District, acknowledged how much her constituents would benefit from the budget, including building needed park spaces.
“This budget, really, is not just symbolic. But it means something because it's going to change the future of Fresno and I'm proud of that. This is my 7th budget and it's an unprecedented budget where we actually had resources to fight about,” she said.
Mayor Jerry Dyer said increased sales tax revenues helped to boost funding, including an added $28.6 million pumped into the general fund, bringing it to over $403 million.
“It is no question that our economy is growing rapidly in our city, post-pandemic, and it is growing faster than what we had expected,” Dyer said.
Some of those sales tax revenues, he attributed to auto sales and corporate taxes from Amazon and big box stores such as Walmart and Costco.
One of the biggest points of debate in passing the budget was public safety. Although it cleared with a 5-2 vote, council members Mike Karbassi and Garry Bredefeld voiced opposition to police department spending. Both were concerned with being able to hire enough officers and 911 dispatchers.
“We have a recruiting and a retention crisis," Bredefeld said emphasiszing the word crisis a second time. "A police hiring retention crisis and this budget doesn't fix it and it's shameful. It's shameful."
But Dyer said the budget addressed that need and has directed the police chief to increase the number of officers.
“I asked him to put together an aggressive hiring plan that would allow for the hiring of 120 police officers over a 15 month period,” Dyer said.
In addition to filling vacancies in the police department, the budget accounted for hiring 12 more officers.
The mayor noted that community input was instrumental in shaping the direction of the budget.
“Yeah we took in consideration what the community wanted, what the employees wanted, and that's why I believe this budget overall, reflects the needs of this entire community,” Dyer said.
The mayor will outline his vision for the new fiscal year when he holds his inaugural State of the City address at Chukchansi Park Friday.