Fresno budget improves, but Mayor says more cuts coming

February 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is eager to show the numbers, and says despite some positive signs, the city budget is still out of whack.

"We are not stable. We are in a serious situation."

A boost in tax revenues, and savings from the retirement of police officers helped change the budget picture.

"We thought we would be $4 million in the hole, at the end of this budget year, but it looks like we are going to be $1.3 million in the hole this year. So we're still negative, we are still having to borrow to finish out this budget year." Swearengin told Action News.

She maintains it will still be necessary to privatize residential trash collection to bring in additional revenue. Swearengin says she is not out to bust the sanitation workers union.

"If I had an agenda to just devastate bargaining groups and employees we would not have been modest in the way we have just cut what was needed, what was needed, so that's not what I'm about."

But the change in fortunes has raised questions with the sanitation workers union, and the police union.

Marina Magdelano represents the sanitation workers, "As a taxpayer I wonder about the truthfulness of the things that come out of the administration."

Jacky Parks, head of the Fresno Police Officers Association says the city administration seems to have been "crying wolf."

"I don't know what to make anymore, I mean we see numbers that seem to be changing frequently going up and down."

Some City Council members are also confused, but at Thursday's council meeting City Manager Mark Scott took pains to assure them all is not well.

"So if anybody wants to challenge me that all of the sudden things are fine in Fresno, if this is fine, then we are going to have to get used to a much different method of operating than we've had in the past."

The city administration has come up with a five year plan to balance the budget. The Mayor says in addition to privatizing garbage services the city will need to cut health care costs for employees, and get concessions from city unions. The number one target of those concessions will be the Fresno Police Officers Association. Parks says that's one reason so many officers are leaving the force now, because they are expecting an "Apocalypse" in 2015 when their contract is up.

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