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Here's what the Fresno City Council wants to add in next year's budget

The Fresno City Council will be down to six members during June budget hearings if Steve Brandau holds his lead and wins the race for Fresno County Supervisor.
The Fresno City Council will be down to six members during June budget hearings if Steve Brandau holds his lead and wins the race for Fresno County Supervisor. Fresno Bee file

Fresno City Council members over a series of budget hearings this month have proposed millions of dollars in changes to the city's 2019 budget.

Budget hearings began the first week this month, and the city charter requires the council to approve a balanced budget by the start of a new fiscal year, or June 30.

Mayor Lee Brand and his administration announced at the end of May a proposed $1.115 billion budget for next year. It includes $341 million in the general fund for police, fire, parks and other core city functions. The latter figure is an increase of about 2.1 percent from last year.

Brand's proposed budget includes a new litter control crew, money to buy land to relocate a fire station and enough to buy over 100 new police cars.

But the seven council members would like to see some other things funded, as well. Here are some highlights:

Bike officers

Council President Esmeralda Soria rallied unanimous support to add two bike officers each in the Tower District (within her District 1) and El Dorado Park in Councilman Paul Caprioglio's District 4 to combat rising crime.

A satellite police station in the Tower District opened in 2017, and that's where the Tower District bike unit will write reports and make follow-up calls.

Four new officers, or two bike units, will cost about $500,000.

Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the bike officers will report for duty July 1.

But it remains unclear if the bike officers will be new hires or if current officers will be reassigned.

Discretionary funds

Each council member has $50,000 in discretionary funds to use in their district as they see fit. They want to quadruple that amount, bringing it up to $200,000 for each district.

In total, that will cost about $1.4 million.

The council chose to direct the money to their discretionary funds instead of allocating additional dollars to public works or PARCS for projects.

Sales tax

The council wants to claim the August 2019 sales tax revenue as a 13th month in this upcoming budget, bumping up when it can use the estimated $9.9 million in revenue. The money was originally accounted for in the five-year budget plan, but the council decided to use an accounting method previously used by the city in 2012 in "a desperate attempt" to balance the budget. The alternative accounting method will free up the money sooner.

The council first discussed putting the money in its reserve fund in hopes the move would reflect positively on the city's credit rating — a move the mayor said he would support.

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In that instance, the council considered splitting equally among districts the $3.5 million originally slotted for reserve funding for infrastructure. There also was a motion to use the $3.5 million as a downpayment for Fire Station 18 west of Highway 99 , but that motion lacked support. On Thursday, the council remained undecided and a subcommittee will work to come up with a proposal.

The mayor said he doesn't favor spending the money.

Other additions

District 5 Councilman Luis Chavez, with the council's support, is asking for 100,000 to begin funding a dedicated senior activity center and research other ways to fully fund a senior center. Although the city offers services for senior citizens at various community centers, the city has no senior center.

PARCS staff members estimate an interim site would cost about $400,000 and said location is key. A permanent space would cost anywhere from $7 million to $11 million depending on size and amenities, staff estimated. The annual operating cost is estimated at about $400,000.

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The council also hopes to increase the SPCA's contract by more than $200,000 to keep up with a rising minimum wage.

The council also agreed to hire a litigation attorney and legal secretary for the city attorney's office.

To fund any of these policy decisions, the mayor's administration will have to find money in the budget, meaning other budget items may be reduced or cut.

The council will vote on the budget on Thursday, June 28.

Brianna Calix: 559-441-6166, @BriannaCalix

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