Mayor Swearengin: Hard Budget Decisions Put City On Path to Fiscal Stability

Mayor Ashley Swearengin today issued the following statement after the Fresno City Council adopted the fiscal year 2011 budget:

“The hard decisions that we made in this budget have put the City of Fresno on the path to fiscal stability. We are one step away from a structurally balanced budget for the first time in many years in Fresno. A structurally sound financial position is the foundation for everything we want to accomplish in the City of Fresno, and I am very pleased with our progress.

“I appreciate the input we have received from the public and our employees as we have dealt with this very difficult budget. I am encouraged by the response we have received from the community. The public has expressed a real willingness to work together as a community to get through this time."

Mayor Swearengin said the budget focuses on three key strategies:

• Contracting the ongoing operations of the organization through departmental reductions. The budget will result in the elimination of a total of 304 filled or vacant positions. No sworn police officers or firefighters will be laid off.

• Implementing changes in the way the city does business, including outsourcing and franchising some City services and significant streamlining of land use management, capital improvements and utility planning and operations. The budget includes proposals for franchising solid waste operations to business customers, outsourcing park maintenance, and partnering with community-based organizations to operate 10 community centers.

• Using $6.5 million from the city’s emergency reserves to pay for one-time costs related to contracting the organization. The budget uses reserve funds to implement an Employee Retirement Incentive (ERI) program as well as employee leave payouts and unemployment costs related to the contraction of the organization. These one-time costs are expected to create $2.1 million in ongoing operational savings in the future. The budget maintains a 5 percent general fund reserve balance, in line with standards established by the Government Finance Officers Association.

Council members also identified $564,000 in additional savings during the budget hearing process that will help reduce the impact of future reductions.

Mayor Swearengin said the approved budget, which goes into effect July 1, presents a spending plan that:

• Safeguards essential services;
• Fully funds the City’s pension obligation;
• Preserves a reserve balance at 5 percent;
• Plans for the future by addressing how services are provided; and,
• Sets the stage for a sustainable budget framework into the future. Early action on organizational contraction has resulted in a significant improvement to the city’s future fiscal outlook. In November 2009, the City was projecting a deficit of $87.9 million by fiscal year 2015. The current forecast, however, projects a significantly lower deficit of $30.7 million in fiscal year 2015, which indicates the City has made major strides in improving its long-term fiscal health.