Clovis News

Clovis OKs budget that cuts police, social services

The Clovis City Council approved a $161 million budget Monday night that includes fewer police and fire employees and cuts in services for seniors, the disabled and youths beginning in July.

"Everyone's had to make some really tough choices," Council Member Bob Whalen said after the council's unanimous budget approval. Next year's budget will be "difficult for a lot of people," Whalen said.

Whalen said he hoped volunteers would help fill in the gaps left by budget cuts.

The cuts are intended to deal with a $5.3 million shortfall for the budget year that begins July 1.

The recession and the housing slump are reducing city revenues from sales and property taxes.

Overall, the 2009-10 budget is nearly 29% below the current year's budget, city officials said.

The cuts include five vacant police officer positions and 2.5 nonsworn positions in the police and fire departments.

The council did not restore the $300,000 needed to pay for three firefighter positions necessary to keep the downtown Clovis fire station open full time. The station will be closed 80% of the time.

The budget also will cut programs for Clovis youths. The Clovis Area Recreation center will close in August unless the city can find a nonprofit organization to take over the program. The Police Activities League, in which about 300 youths participated, also fell victim to the budget ax.

The Clovis Senior Center will close during the day on Fridays, but will open for Friday evening dances. The center will be open on Saturdays and Sundays only for weddings and parties that rent the center.

Urged on by several senior citizens, city officials said they would try to keep open two popular senior exercise programs.

The council also agreed to raise bus fares by 25 cents, to $1.25, and end weekend Stageline service and an evening and weekend subsidized taxi voucher program. The changes take effect Aug. 1 and are expected to save the city $283,400.

Several senior and disabled residents spoke against changes to the transit program.

"These changes affect the people with the most needs, to maintain their independence," said Kathy Yoshida, director of interpreting services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services in Fresno. "Eliminating these services really cuts down on this population group's independence."

"Clearly, many of you have no other options," said Council Member Nathan Magsig. "As a council, we struggle -- where do we come up with the money?"