Lee Brand file photo
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said the city is falling short in its ability to fund public safety and parks, and he’s proposing a half-cent sales tax to pay to elevate those services.
“I called this press conference to announce a parks and public safety tax measure that I’m bringing to the City Council this Thursday to vote to put on the November ballot,” the mayor told reporters gathered in front of City Hall today.
“If this measure is supported by at least two-thirds of the voters, it will raise between $44 and $50 million a year to support public safety and parks,” he said, adding that the tax would sunset after 15 years.
“Half the money would go to providing our residents with outstanding police and fire services,” which would include hiring 150-200 new police officers, firefighters and civilian support staff, meaning community support officers and dispatchers.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer, who also spoke, said the city needs extra dispatchers, because they often are backed up with calls – particularly during the summer — leaving some 911 callers waiting longer than the goal of getting their calls answered in at least 15 seconds.
“It will improve our 911 response times for police, fires and emergency aid,” Brand said of the extra money that could be collected through the half-cent tax.’
Part of the money also would be used to upgrade “an aging communications system that has failed at times,” he told reporters.
“Most importantly, it will allow us to go after 20,000 gang members that plague our cities … and finally implement community-based policing.
“The other half of the money would be used to implement most of the recommendations of the [city’s] Parks Master Plan, which would include funding 100 percent of the Tier 1 critical needs and Tier 2 strategic needs in the Master Plan, along with half to two thirds of the Tier 3 visionary improvements,” said Brand, who was flanked by city officials and staff from the city’s Parks, After School, Recreation and Community Services Department dressed as pirates, some with toy swords.
The mayor didn’t go into detail about those needs beyond saying some money would go to replanting and “reoutfitting” Fresno’s existing parks and making “relevant, modern facilities.”
In addition, he said the sales tax money would allow Fresno close its $5 million annual gap in paying for maintenance of its current parks.
“Finally, this program would provide substantial new funding for programs for our youth and our seniors,” said Brand, who didn’t say whether that might include building a senior center, of which Fresno currently has none.
But before any of this can happen and even before the tax proposal can make it onto the November ballot, at least five of the seven Fresno City Council members first must approve Brand’s proposed ballot initiative on Thursday.
The matter is scheduled on the City Council agenda for after 2 p.m.