The Fresno Police Department proposed Tuesday a $206 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year during a six-hour budget hearing before the city council.
Police Chief Paco Balderrama said if the budget is approved, nearly $1 million would go towards funding 12 new police officers and 19 additional professional staff during the 2021-2022 fiscal year. That would increase the police department’s ranks to 850 sworn positions and 320 professional staff, he said.
District 1 Councilmember Esmeralda Soria said she was uncomfortable allocating money for additional police officers when many are out on medical leave or workers’ compensation claims.
“If we were demonstrating that people are going back to work and that we don’t have as many long-term absences as we have in the books, I’d be like, ‘OK, I’m willing to pay a little bit more to make sure we are staffed up,’” she said. But, she said, that isn’t the case.
In response, city manager Thomas Esqueda said the department recently initiated a task force dedicated to investigating workers’ comp claims.
District 3 council member Miguel Arias said he’s skeptical the department would actually use the money to fill vacancies.
“For me, it’s a trend with this department,” he said. “They bring forward a recommendation, an action, a contract; sell it to us on the basis of ‘A’. Then ‘A’ doesn’t come to fruition; then they say, ‘we still need it for ‘B’ reason.’”
Council member Tyler Maxwell suggested an external review of the workers comp claims.
The city will vote on the final budget on June 24.