Mayor Swearengin Unveils Proposed Budget That Protects Essential Services, Moves City Forward
Saying that “the challenges we face require us to make tough decisions,” Mayor Ashley Swearengin today unveiled a proposed fiscal year 2010 budget that protects critical services and continues to move the City forward during challenging economic times.
The $226.6 million general fund budget takes into account a 7.7 percent expected decline in revenue from fiscal year 2009. Combined with rising expenses related to contractual obligations and growing debt service, the City identified the need for $26.8 million in savings over fiscal years 2010 and 2011 to ensure balanced budgets. The proposal protects the general fund’s emergency reserve of $17 million.
The City’s total budget including all accounts is $1,064,676,900.
“This budget reflects very difficult decisions caused by the most challenging financial environment that we have faced in decades,” Mayor Swearengin. “The fiscally prudent decisions made in this budget will provide adequate resources for core services in the short term, while preserving our reserves to weather uncertain financial times in the coming years.”
“We have developed this budget with transparency, thoughtfulness, and realism. By making these tough choices and living within our means, I am confident that the City of Fresno will emerge from these difficult economic times as a stronger, leaner and more effective municipal government.”
Mayor Swearengin said the budget was developed according to five guiding principles:
• First, the City cannot retreat on its priorities during times of economic decline.
• Second, every decision in this budget - no matter how big or how small - must be made with the utmost fiscal prudence and discipline in mind.
• Third, City departments must collaborate with one another and with outside agencies to improve efficiencies and service levels to the public.
• Fourth, the public must be heavily involved every step of the way – from prioritizing spending to the delivery of services throughout the year.
• Finally, each department must clearly establish and continuously measure its goals.
To help address the need for savings, the budget proposal calls for salaries and benefits for all city employees to remain at their current year levels. Mayor Swearengin said that non-represented employees already have been informed that their salaries and benefits will be frozen in the coming year, and the City is now in ongoing discussions with its bargaining units to gain their support for this approach.
Even with employee salary concessions, up to 83 full and permanent part time positions will be impacted through a combination of reassignments, demotions and staff reductions.
However, through the use of grants and reorganizations, only 9 permanent part time employees – all of whom are Police Department retirees (civilian positions) who came back to work on the LifeSkills program -- would be laid off.
Despite the challenging economic times, Mayor Swearengin also said the budget will preserve critical services and provide for important new initiatives in a number of areas, including:
Police: Front line police staffing levels will continue at current levels. Response times to emergency calls will be the department’s top priority. The City will continue its anti-gang enforcement efforts, and the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Initiative will continue and explore new grant funding and new community partners. The department’s DUI and traffic enforcement and video policing efforts also will continue.
Fire: Newly completed Fire Station 19 will open in July, and all other fire stations will remain in service. Redeployment of resources will provide the best opportunity to meet departmental service level objectives of placing a unit on the scene of an emergency within 4 minutes and placing 15 firefighters on scene of a structure fire in 8 minutes. All scheduled fire inspections will be done in fiscal year 2010, and all mandated fire fighter training will continue.
PARCS: All neighborhood centers will remain open, and all parks and facilities will be maintained. PARCS will serve seven percent more senior hot meals in fiscal year 2010 than in fiscal year 2009. The City also will begin a new Youth Nutritional Assistance program to provide healthy meals to children during the summer months and over the holidays.
Housing/downtown and community revitalization: The City will continue to address homelessness with a $3.1 million federal grant to prevent homelessness, assist persons who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, and to rapidly re-house people who are homeless through diversion away from the emergency shelter system. The City also will continue the revitalization of downtown with $900,000 for Specific Plans. Fresno also will use more than $647,300 in Community Development Block Grant funds to begin rehabilitating the Lowell-Jefferson neighborhood. In addition, the City will re-engineer the development permitting process and will increase efforts over the next three years to remove lead-based paint in homes with a $3 million grant.
Public Works: The City will spend more than $1 million for neighborhood street repaving and tree damaged concrete repair, and the Department will use $9.1 million in stimulus funding for street improvements and traffic signals. During FY 2009-2013 PW will use $13 million in grant funds to extend traffic signal synchronization to an additional 32 miles of city streets. The Department’s Emergency Repair, Pot Hole and Crack Seal programs will continue without change, and its concrete repair program will increase 10 percent from fiscal year 2009.
Public Utilities: The City will expand water conservation efforts and will award water meter retrofit contracts to install 26,000 water meters by April 30, 2010.
Fresno Area Express (FAX): The City will increase the number of low-emission buses it operates, and all bus service will continue on the same routes as in fiscal year 2009. A new Taxi Scrip program will be implemented to provide additional transportation options to those looking for work.
Natural resources: The City will launch “Sustainable Fresno,” a multi-year effort to improve long-term land use planning and water and energy conservation. The budget also proposes using federal stimulus funds through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program to reduce energy use and improve energy efficiency.
Information services: To address the Planning and Development Department’s need to upgrade its planning software, EnerGov Solutions will be leased and implemented in FY 2010. The EnerGov Solution will utilize the power of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and centralized enterprise capabilities to enhance service delivery for the Planning and Development Department.
The full proposed 2009-2010 fiscal year budget and an executive summary of the budget are available on the City’s Web site at www.fresno.gov/budget.