Mayor Jerry Dyer presents his proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year at Fresno's Council Chambers. The special meeting lasted about two hours on Thursday, May 18.

What's at stake?

Police and parks are big winners here, and residents may expect to see a trash rate increase later this year, if Mayor Dyer gets his way.

In the nearly two hours it took for Mayor Jerry Dyer to present his proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year, utility costs, public infrastructure and Fresno’s police budget drew considerable attention by members of the public and city council. 

On Thursday, Dyer proposed increasing the city budget to about $1.85 billion, $40 million greater than the 2023 fiscal year amended budget. Under his proposal, 13 city departments would end up with larger budgets this year.

Dyer is seeking to expand the city’s public utilities budget by $48.8 million, the public works budget by $42.3 million and the police budget by about $25.5 million. Those budget increases would accommodate a trash rate increase, two dozen new traffic lights and 50 new sworn police officers. 

This comes after the city budgeted for $2.3 billion in net revenue over the course of the 2023 fiscal year, and the mayor anticipates the city will generate that sum — along with $82 million more — in net revenue next year. Much of that increased revenue comes from special taxes like Measure C and Measure P.

Prior to the Thursday presentation, several members of the public gave comment on how exorbitant the police budget is, how rents in the city need to be reigned in, the need for more to be done to keep people from becoming homeless and criticism of the proposed budget being released only an hour prior to the mayor’s presentation in the council chambers.

The process to approve the 2024 fiscal year city budget over the next month is on. That includes subcommittee budget meetings, three public budget hearings in the first week of June, followed by a June 14 city council vote on budget motions and a final June 22 council vote to officially approve the city budget.

About 50 new police hires and over six dozen new vehicles

Dyer is seeking to raise the police budget to $261 million, an increase of $25.5 million, to fund an aggressive hiring strategy and purchase a myriad of police vehicles and equipment. Back in the 2021 fiscal year the police budget was $210 million.

Although the Fresno Police Department never had more sworn police officers on its payroll than this year, so far with 848 officers, Chief Paco Balderrama and Mayor Dyer do not have intentions to stop there. Balderrama told KSEE24 in April that he plans to bring Fresno's total police force to 900 sworn officers. Dyer's proposal budgets for that goal, although it’s not specified under authorized position changes and mentioned briefly in the mayor’s message at the beginning of the proposed budget document.

Dyer has also budgeted millions for police equipment and vehicles in his proposal, including $33,900 for the first annual lease payment on a new armored tactical vehicle for the Fresno Police Department’s SWAT team. Dyer is also seeking to purchase 47 new patrol vehicles, 15 plain unmarked vehicles, 15 new motorcycles, one new police transit van and three canine patrol vehicles.

Dyer's proposal notes that year-to-date violent crime is down nearly 20% and homicides have decreased by more than 60%. He went on to attribute lower crime statistics to increased “staffing levels and partnerships.” Fresnoland has yet to hear back from a city spokesperson on questions regarding these crime statistics.

“When crime is up, the police department asks for more resources and this body has granted it,” said Councilmember Miguel Arias at Thursday's presentation. “When crime is down, the police department credits police for reduction in crime and they ask for more money. I've yet to see the actual data that correlates more officers or more police resources to reduction in crime.”

Arias added that if there’s no difference in the quality of service provided by the police, after hiring more and more of them, he wants to know why.

“Ultimately, this body has increased your budget by a record amount,” Arias said. “We're not seeing that reflected in better and faster service for the end customer — which are residents, businesses and projects in which we're in a housing crisis." 

That housing crisis gets several mentions in Dyer’s proposal. Most notable is his goal for over 3,000 new affordable housing units in Fresno by 2025. But in the midst of louder calls for rent control in Fresno, Dyer’s budget anticipates a $24.7 million decrease in funding for the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, due to sunsetting grants from federal and state funds. The program provided emergency financial assistance to landlords and renters since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The mayor’s proposed budget, in some places, carries over unused dollars that have already been allocated to in previous years for affordable housing. For example, a key detail of the 2023 fiscal year budget was $40 million in ARPA dollars that would support new affordable housing developments. 

However, one year later, Dyer’s proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year mentions re-budgeting $41.9 million in ARPA dollars to build housing.

An incoming trash rate increase

Dyer emphasized the need to increase the city’s public utilities department budget, to accommodate anticipated increases in PG&E costs and compounding needs in the city’s water and wastewater divisions — which have gone unaddressed for the last two years and forced the department to dig into its cash reserves.

Dyer’s proposal seeks to expand the public utilities budget to $389.6 million, a $48.8 million increase. He said that Fresno residents can anticipate a proposal in the near future to raise the city’s solid waste rate in order to generate revenue that would cover needed financial investments for the city’s waste and wastewater division.

“The last solid waste rate increase that we experienced in the city of Fresno was in 2009,” Dyer said at the presentation Thursday. “Over that time, fuel has increased, PG&E costs have increased, salaries have increased — we’ve had inflation.”

Councilmember Arias asked Dyer how much he anticipated the solid waste rate would increase, but didn’t get a specific answer from the mayor. City Manager Georgeanne White jumped in to say that she would have to circle back on what a sufficient rate increase would look like, although she said the city's solid waste division would face a $12 million deficit without a rate increase next year.

Dyer’s proposed budget also anticipates almost $953,100 in revenue next year when the city’s public utilities department will newly resume charging Fresno residents for utility late payments and shut offs.

“I just want to point out, I’m going to be looking to what better service are we going to provide the customer for a higher fee,” said Councilmember Miguel Arias.

Improvements to roads, bus stops and parks

Dyer’s proposed $42.3 million expansion to the city’s public works department would establish a new team dedicated to fixing potholes — yes, the ones on Shaw and everywhere else in Fresno. Dyer projects it would cost $1.77 million to establish the necessary crews and equipment. 

The public works budget expansion would also establish 24 new traffic signals, 18 traffic signal modifications and improvements to specific crosswalks to make them more visible. 

The city’s FAX public transportation system would also be getting an increased budget— by $26.6 million. Some of that will go toward continuing free ridership agreements with the Fresno Unified School District and potential agreements with Fresno State and State Center Community College District. The added funding would also go towards improving bus stops and upgrading FAX facilities.

Dyer’s budget proposal also contains over 60 park projects using American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds, Community Development Block Grants, Prop 68 dollars and Measure P revenue. For example, $230,000 in ARPA dollars will be used to install new pickleball courts at Vinland Park and Rotary East Park; $4.3 million in Measure P revenue will be used to rehabilitate restrooms, add lighting and pickleball courts to Roeding Park. 

Dyer also noted that city budget staffers made an error in calculating projected tax revenue from Measure P, a tax meant to generate funding to improve and maintain Fresno’s parks and facilities, build new parks and trails, and fund recreation, community, and arts programs. Now, based on corrected projection methodology, the mayor anticipates the city will generate $48 million in Measure P tax revenue next fiscal year.

Dyer's proposed budget is 480 pages long, touches every single city department and would set in motion major financial investments across Fresno. In June, the city council will hold five budget hearings, to which members of the public are welcome to attend and share their sentiments about what deserves investment with city dollars.

What's next?

Here are when budget hearings will be held at the Fresno Council Chambers, located at 2600 Fresno Street. Interested residents can also participate via Zoom.

  • June 5 at 9 a.m.
  • June 6 at 9 a.m.
  • June 7 at 9 a.m.
  • June 14 at 9 a.m.
  • June 22 at 9 a.m.

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Omar Shaikh Rashad

Omar Shaikh Rashad is the government accountability reporter for Fresnoland.

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