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City of Fresno record budget passes, but some housing advocates question amount of funding to address crisis

Fresno City Council Budget 6-30-22.jpg
Mayor Jerry Dyer holds news conference with City Council members and other city leaders following passage of the budget, June 30, 2022.

The City Council voted 7-0 to pass the $1.9 billion budget, of which $40 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding was allocated to address housing.

Fresno city leaders unanimously passed a record $1.9 billion budget Thursday, the largest in the city’s history. The budget was flush with state and federal funding, including millions in American Rescue Plan Act dollars, plus a surge in sales and property taxes, all of which allowed for an ‘unprecedented’ spending plan for areas such as housing, parks and public safety.

“We put our community first and our neighborhoods first and the safety of our people first. And so let me just say thank you to all of you for what you just did. A 7-0 vote, unprecedented, historical in these times,” said Mayor Jerry Dyer following the vote.

For parks, Measure P dollars and sales tax revenue increases led to the largest ever budget at $108 million. It will fund new park developments, and maintain and upgrade existing facilities.

Funding for police and firefighters also allowed for the highest number of police officers and firefighters to ever be staffed in the city; 888 police officers and 371 firefighters.

Other major investments included $60 million for neighborhood infrastructure, to improve streets and sidewalks.

For housing, the budget allocated $40 million American Rescue Plan Act funds to support the mayor’s One Fresno Housing Strategy, a three year, $260 million plan to build more affordable housing and market rate housing in Fresno. The report recognized that many residents are struggling to afford housing with rental prices in Fresno seeing some of the highest increases in the nation.

But Karla Martinez, policy advocate for the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability questioned whether $40 million would be enough to address the city’s housing crisis. “We know that things are continuously rising. So, production costs are going to rise, material costs. And we know that while $40 million is not a lot in the grand scheme of things it can, if used correctly, make a great impact for our housing crisis here in the City of Fresno,” she said.

Martinez said she hoped the city would consider housing priorities that community input outlined in the Here to Stay Report including rent stabilization, homeowner and rental assistance programs and housing improvement and rehabilitation programs. Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability works closely with other community-based organizations such as Faith in the Valley and Jakara Movement.

Martinez said it was worrisome that the city has not clearly outlined how the money will be used. “There still needs to be more community input within the mayor's One Fresno Housing plan that we didn't really get to see and that a lot of residents and community-based organizations weren't involved in creating that plan.”

As part of the budget, the city council also voted to amend an ordinance introduced last week that would have raised city council salaries by nearly 70 percent to more than $135,000. Citing strong public outcry, the council scaled back the pay raise to more moderate increases annually. The new proposal would raise salaries from $80,000 to $92,000 starting January 2023, $101,200 in January 2024 and $111,300 starting January 2025. The amendment passed 5-2 and will be adopted at the next meeting on July 21st.

Soreath Hok is a multimedia journalist with 16 years of experience in radio, television and digital production. At KVPR she covers local government, politics and other local news.