Fresno Mayor Outlines Budget Cuts

May 18, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is outlining her solution for a $21 million dollar shortfall in next year's budget. She unveiled her proposed budget plan Monday and it includes steep cuts to most city departments. "It's not comfortable for anyone. No one is pleased with our situation. However, it could be much, much worse," said Swearengin. The mayor's budget is based on an expected 7.7% decline in revenues and will trim nearly $27 million dollars from city's the general fund over two years. The bulk of the savings will come from personnel costs. "This budget relies on management and non-management, represented and non-represented employees alike to freeze their salaries and benefits at their current year levels," said Swearengin.

In addition, the mayor is asking for the demotions or transfers of 83 city employees. 25 are from the police department. It's eliminating 10 management positions and two sergeants. Those officers will be demoted, creating a trickle down effect throughout the department. The officers were notified Monday and the demotions will go into effect July 13th. "It's the most difficult time I've had as a chief because I've promoted all those individuals. It is a difficult thing to do, but it is a difficult budget," said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Despite the budget crunch, only 9 permanent part-time positions will be eliminated city wide. Those positions are currently filled by retirees who are working in the police department's life skills program.

The fire department is also reorganizing its resources. It's closing two companies and transferring firefighters to a reserve pool in order to save on overtime costs. It's also relocating another company in order to staff the city's newest fire station, Station #19. "We had to make a fundamental choice of what do we protect? And looking at where we make the most difference, it's that four minute, first response," said Fresno Fire Department Chief Randy Bruegman.

The city will be meeting with labor unions in hopes they will agree to the benefit and salary freezes. The proposed budget is also counting on a $4.6 million dollar grant from the federal government to keep all of the city's sworn police officers. If that doesn't come through, up to 31 officers may have to be eliminated. The mayor will present her budget to the city council May 28.

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