Fresno budget adjustments could bring layoffs

FRESNO, Calif.

The council already approved an approximately one billion dollar budget proposed by Mayor Ashley Swearengin last June, but it contained a number of assumptions that didn't materialize.

City Manager Mark Scott told Action News; "We're trying to get the current fiscal year budget into real balance and were behind we haven't got some employee concessions."

The city won more than one million dollars in wage concessions from two employee unions, but several other groups didn't budget. The Fresno Police Officers Association was asked to take the biggest hit. They did make concessions but their offer wasn't enough for the city administration.

FPOA President Jacky Parks wouldn't reveal details but told us; "At the end of the day we believed we offered something that would have been very fair to the city."

Parks did say it amounted to about four million dollar's worth of financial concessions over four years. But the administration was unwilling to accept some future conditions in the proposal.

Now, to make up the difference, the administration is, among other things, asking for a million dollar's worth of adjustments in city retirement funds, asking employees to take more furlough days, and leaving it to department heads to trim another eight hundred thousand dollars. Scott said; "I trust the department heads to tell me where the best place to make cuts would be it's a very hard thing for us to make eight hundred thousand dollars in department cuts at this point. Very disappointing that we have but we're not there, have to make a balance."

Scott told the City Council that making those cuts could involve layoffs of some city employees. The City Council is also being asked to give up nearly three hundred thousand dollars in their individual district funds , money used for things like filling pot holes. Council member Sal Quintero says losing those funds would be a hardship, especially for districts in those in the South part of town.

"We all represent the older areas of the city and it has more needs than the Northern part."

The council voted to accept the latest adjustments, but withheld support of the proposal to cut their own budgets. The whole package of adjustments will be voted on again next week.

The council voted to accept the latest adjustments, but withheld support of the part of the adjustment proposal which would cut their own budgets. They will vote on that at next week's council meeting.

Another key budget assumption that has yet to materialize is the Mayor's goal of privatizing the collection of commercial solid waste. That is, garbage pick up at businesses and apartment complexes. The Mayor hopes to see the city collect two and a half million dollars a year in franchise fees from two private garbage companies, which would take over the work now done by city employees. The workers and their union oppose the deal. A majority of the council voted Thursday to approve it.. Council Members Blong Xiong and Quintero voted no. Xiong told Action News;

"It is not about balancing the budget, it's a money grab to fill a gap that's what it was."

The council must take two more votes and hold a public hearing before the deal is finalized. A delay in getting an acceptable contract to the private garbage companies is eating up about two hundred thousand dollars a month from the Mayor's budget assumption.

Even if all the current assumptions and adjustments are approved, because of ongoing uncertainties about the economy the City Council expects to be making additional budget adjustments through the first of next year.

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