Fresno mayor proposes largest budget in city history — amid projected tax revenue decrease
A proposed $1.85 billion budget calls for major increases in spending and the possibility of a voter-approved utility rate hike.
FRESNO, Calif. – Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer proposed the largest budget in city history on Thursday, presenting a $1.85 billion dollar spending plan for fiscal year 2024, while acknowledging a slowdown in projected revenue.
“We are somewhat leveled off now. As you know, we've enjoyed a couple of good years of sales tax and property tax increases,” Dyer said.
During his presentation, the mayor said the latest sales tax growth projections in fiscal year 2024 are 2.5%, while property tax is 4.25% — down from the previous two years.
Still, the budget called for increased spending in a number of areas, including public safety.
The police department could get a $40 million bump from last year’s adopted budget — going from about $221 million to a proposed $261 million for 2024.
That makes up over half of the general fund — totaling $480.5 million— which is used to pay for public safety.
Dyer said the proposal covers increased staffing in the department, including new officer and dispatcher positions.
Dyer said the police department has added 62 officers to the department in the last two years, for a total of 900 sworn officers.
He also touted statistics that, he said, showed a decrease in crime.
In an initial round of questions on the mayor’s budget, councilmember Miguel Arias noted the increase to the department’s budget in the midst of a downturn in revenue.
“What I've heard from staff in the last several months is that the best times in terms of growth and sale and tax revenue is behind us, but yet your proposed budget recommends a ton of new positions. So I'm going to struggle in this process with reconciling that reality,” Arias said.
Public utilities make up the largest part of the proposed budget, $389 million.
But the mayor said the city will have to turn to the public to secure a rate increase to maintain services.
“Our goal is to only go forth with one increase this year and to smooth it out as much as we can and we'll have some more conversations about that publicly. But otherwise, we're going to have severe impacts on our services,” Dyer said.
The mayor could not pinpoint how much a projected increase would be, only that they were long overdue.
Dyer said utility departments such as water and wastewater are “scraping by.” Trash collection rates, for instance, have not gone up since 2009.
“Over that time, fuel has increased, PG&E costs have increased, salaries have increased and we've had inflation. Equipment costs have increased, as well as vehicles,” he said.
Dyer anticipated going through lengthy public discussions and a Prop 218 protest election, which requires voter approval for a rate hike.
He said the city’s Solid Waste and Management Division is currently operating in the red.
“Solid Waste has depleted its reserve fund, deferred much of the much-needed maintenance and equipment purchases and left positions unfilled just to be able to remain solvent these last two years,” Dyer said.
Another increase built into the proposed budget was for employee raises in pay and benefits totaling $40.8 million.
The budget assumes a 10% employee vacancy rate, and will fund 90% of positions totaling 4,500 authorized positions in the city.