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What could Fresno get for $1.2 billion? Fire station, better roads, BMX park are on the list

Mayor Lee Brand delivers his State of the City Address

Civic leaders gathered for the annual State of the City Luncheon, for Mayor Lee Brand's State of the City Address.
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Civic leaders gathered for the annual State of the City Luncheon, for Mayor Lee Brand's State of the City Address.

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand on Wednesday rolled out his proposed 2020 budget to the tune of $1.187 billion in hopes of replacing police vehicles, building Fire Station 18 and a new BMX park, taking the first steps to split the Development and Resource Management department and bringing reserves up to 10 percent of the general fund.

“This budget represents our continued strategy to use a sensible, balanced approach to make our city a better, safer place to live, work, raise our children and enjoy life,” Brand said. “We have planned this budget not only to reflect our present needs but also to honor our priorities and chart our path for fiscal stability over the next five to 10 years.”

The mayor’s budget priorities remain public safety, being business friendly and economic development.

Public safety

Brand highlighted the groundbreaking earlier this year for a police substation in southeast Fresno and that this budget funds the construction of Fire Station 18 at the furthest northwest edge of the city.

The proposed budget also will replace 71 police vehicles, upgrade the police department’s Skywatch program, fund a new SWAT vehicle and replace ballistic vests.

The budget will also fund a new fire company, bringing up the fire department’s daily staffing to 80.

Parks

The Parks, After school, Recreation and Community Services budget is up 4.6 percent.

Investment in city parks was a hot-button topic last year as Brand, Police Chief Jerry Dyer and Fire Chief Kerri Donis campaigned against Measure P, a sales tax ballot initiative to boost funding for parks. The measure failed to receive the two-thirds majority of the vote, but whether two-thirds was actually necessary to implement the tax will be decided in court.

The city’s upcoming PARCS budget provides for a new BMX park at Mary Ella Brown Community Center and “tot lots” for Tupman Park off of Ventura Street, Dickey Playground and JSK Parks. It also includes a Challenger Course at Romain Park, which could include things such as a climbing wall, zip line or rope swing.

Brand noted that the PARCS budget has increased from $21 million in fiscal year 2017 to $32 million for fiscal year 2020.

Business Friendly Fresno 2.0!

A major change at City Hall over the next couple years will be splitting the Development and Resource Management (DARM) department into two departments: one for development and planning and another for neighborhood services.

The new neighborhood services department would include code enforcement and the rental housing inspection program. Planning and development would be where building permits are processed.

In the last year, DARM processed 90 percent of 5,000 business permits on time.

Other numbers

This year’s general fund is about $346 million, a little over 3 percent higher than last year. The general fund reserves this year will be 10 percent of the general fund, the highest in city history. That was a goal for Brand, who authored the reserve management act as a council member, and it was achieved four years early after the council last year opted to claim accrued sales tax ahead of schedule.

Brand said while the city’s economy remained relatively stable and healthy, operating costs such as employee services have increased. Still, he said, the city’s financial health is in a much better place than when he was a council member and the city was “one paycheck away from bankruptcy.”

The budget also includes: 74 miles of road paving; $3.1 million in repairs to sidewalks damaged by trees; funding to start construction of the Midtown Trail; and matching funds for Transform Fresno projects.

The mayor will present the budget to the council on June 3, and the city charter demands that a balanced budget must be approved by June 30.

For additional details on the proposed budget, visit www.fresno.gov/finance/budget.

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Brianna Calix covers Fresno’s city government for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable, analyze city policy and inform readers how city hall decisions might affect their lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star.

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