Fresno Mayor Lee Brand gave the media a sneak peek of his 2018-19 budget proposal at a press conference Wednesday morning. Photo by David Castellon
Written by David Castellon
Mayor Lee Brand will present the Fresno City Council on Thursday with his proposed $1.115 billion budget for the next fiscal year.
That amount is 2.6 percent higher than the budget for the current 2017-18 fiscal year, which ends June 30, making Brand’s proposed budget the highest in the city’s history.
“It’s a sensible, balanced [budget]. It provides a roadmap to make Fresno a better, safer and more prosperous place to live, work and play,” Mayor Lee Brand said in a press conference Wednesday at Fresno City Hall.
Most of that budget is comprised of dollars dedicated to the city’s airport, transit services and enterprise funds, which the city has to use for those services, along with state and federal funds and grant money, all earmarked for certain services and projects.
Under Brand’s proposal, the city’s General Fund — the dollars the City Council controls — would total more than $341 million, a 2.1-percent increase over last year and also a record amount, if the council approves it.
Among the funding highlights of the proposed budget noted by city officials:
– Replace 120 aging police vehicles.
– A seven-week “drill school” for city firefighters.
– Acquisition of land to relocate Fire Station 10.
– Add concrete crews in the Public Works Department to help repair and replace aging sidewalks, curbs and gutters.
– Repave 85 miles of traffic lanes, install energy-saving LED fixtures in 38,000 streetlights, erect 14 new traffic signals and upgrade six more traffic signals.
– Hire a new litter-control crew to address the increased requests for services relating to litter control and illegal dumping received through the city’s FresGO app.
In addition, the city plans to hire more people under its Business Friendly Fresno 2.0! initiative to make it easier to build, renovate and expand businesses by having more staff available to process construction permit applications and plan checks, as well as have more front counter help at the Development and Resource Management Department.
City officials said Brand’s budget would continue to build up the city’s reserve fund, which would total $27.54 million by the end of fiscal 2018-19.
That’s equal to about 8 percent of the General Fund, and city officials expect to build the reserve up to their 10 percent goal by the end of fiscal 2022-23, said City Manager Wilma Quan-Schecter, who also spoke to the press.
While his proposed budget puts Fresno on a solid financial base, allowing the city to fund core services nearly back to levels before the Great Recession, Brand said those services still are well below where they should be.
“We have plateaued on our service levels of core services — like public safety, parks and public works projects — but we are far short of what we really need,” he told reporters. “Historically, Fresno has never had sufficient resources to fully fund essential services for the city. We have one of the highest poverty rates, at 30 percent, reducing our per capita income [to] less than half of many cities in the state of California and negatively affecting our revenues.”
He said he hopes to change that with his administration’s focus on economic and job growth, noting that just one-and-a-half years into his first term as mayor, the city is nearly halfway to reaching his pledge to add 10,000 new jobs by the end of his second term.
Brand said the construction of new fulfillment centers for Ulta Beauty and Amazon in southeast Fresno, along with The Gap’s plans to expand its distribution center, will create about 4,000 jobs.
Those added jobs are critical for expanding Fresno’s tax base, which would allow the city to pay for more people to provide core services, the mayor explained.