County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland presents the county's $4.8 billion budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Documented by Kristina Mansfield

What happened: In a meeting that lasted less than an hour with no comments from the public, the Fresno County Supervisors held a public hearing and adopted a $4.8 billion final budget resolution for the 2023-24 fiscal year on Monday.

County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland gave a brief presentation recapping the 2022-23 fiscal year before getting into the details of the 2023-24 fiscal year budget, which increased by $383 million or 9% over the last year.

Nerland highlighted wins from three key areas including the county’s Flood Response Operations Group (FROG), its efforts on the issues of homelessness and various projects funded from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). A map of ARPA projects is available in the 2022-23 fiscal year recap here.

Interim Budget Manager Paige Benavides provided an overview of the 2023-24 budget of $4.8 billion, with nearly $2.4 billion allocated to the general fund, which is the county’s primary operating fund; $1.8 billion for special revenue/trust funds; and $109 million for capital projects.

The largest allocations within the general fund include $1.4 million for human services and $590 million for justice services.

The budget supports a workforce of 8,412 positions and reflects a net increase of 12 positions.

Supervisor Steve Brandau asked one of the few questions raised during the meeting, which was whether the county could increase the salaries and hire fewer individual employees for the positions that are going unfilled.

Nerland said the county has a 15% vacancy rate and that they will consider increasing salaries for the unfilled positions.

“I’d rather have fewer competitively paid positions than more positions that we can’t fill that aren’t paid as competitively,” he said.

Some of the capital projects included in the budget are: $9.7 million toward a new ag commissioner building, $7.6 million toward the board chambers/county hall of records project and $7.5 million toward a new downtown parking structure.

Supervisor Nathan Magsig said the board received their budget books “a few weeks ago.”

“I appreciate us getting those in advance – I just want to thank your [Nerland’s] office, as well as those departments that had an opportunity to have conversations with us about the budget as it’s been presented this year,” he said.

Nerland said the budget process began in the first quarter of 2023 with instructions to all departments, followed by workshops in March, and “hours and hours of preparation and work over the summer working through this robust process.”

“The recommended budget was released a couple of weeks ago, as you know, and we briefed with you individually (and) received many questions and comments,” he said.

What is the county’s budget process?

This was the county’s only public discussion of the budget and it appears most of the decisions regarding how it spends $4.8 billion are hashed out behind closed doors.

With a fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30 annually, the county’s budget process begins with private workshops by the County Administrative Office and County Department staff in March and April.

In an email, County Public Information Officer Sonja Dosti provided a budget timeline, which doesn’t include any additional community meetings or outreach, but she said the county’s human services department handles public outreach for the state and federal mandated services it provides.

“Many departments take into account not only their priorities but also consider any raised by CBOs [Community Based Organizations],” she said.

A letter from one CBO, Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, was included in the agenda packet, which advocates for basic infrastructure, parks, county staff to provide services, and help with water debt for the unincorporated communities of Cantua Creek, El Porvenir, Lanare, and Tombstone Territory.

According to Dosti, the CAO holds individual budget briefings with the supervisors and met with them separately to discuss the recommended budget between Sept. 1 and 8 this year.

County of Fresno Budget Process Timeline – Calendar Year 2023
MarchInternal Service Fund Rates are submitted to ACTTC for approval
MarchPreliminary Budget Process Workshops conducted by County Administrative Office for County Department staff to discuss the budget preparation schedule. (March 1st and 2nd 2023)
AprilDepartmental Salaries & Benefits data are provided to Departments in the Budget Module; Budget Instructions Workshops conducted by CAO’s Office for County Departments staff to issue final instructions for submittal (April 26th and 27th 2023)
MayCalifornia Revised Budget is released
MaySalary & Benefit calculations are certified by County Departments; Departments submit new position requests to the County Administrative Office
Early JuneMaster Schedule of Fees rates approved by the Board of Supervisors
JuneNet County Cost (NCC) allocations are provided to Departments by the County Administrative Office
JuneRecommended Budget for July 1 to September Adoption is approved by Board (6/20/2023)
Early JulyBudget data and narratives are due to the County Administrative Office from County Departments and Budget Module is closed for County Department submissions
July-AugustBudget data and narratives are reviewed by the County Administrative Office and revised, if necessary, by County Departments (at the direction of the County Administrative Office)
Late AugustFinal CAO Recommended Budget made available to the public on County website (8/30/23)
SeptemberPublicly noticed on 9/1/23 Public Budget Hearings begin 9/11/23
This chart shows the Fresno County annual budget preparation timeline. Source: County of Fresno

Up next: The Fresno County Board of Supervisors will meet again on Sept. 19.

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The Fresno Documenters are a group of local residents who are trained and paid to attend and take notes at local public meetings where officials decide how to spend public money and make important decisions...