Fresno City Council approves budget with layoffs

FRESNO, Calif.

"About 15 to 20 people were laid off I think that's unfortunate but I made a good compromise to balance the budget, put money in reserve pay down our debt and move forward to see the city grow," said Brand.

Council Members Clint Olivier, Steve Brandau and Paul Caprioglio endorsed Brand's plan. Council President Blong Xiong was joined by Sal Quintero and Oliver Baines in voting against it. Xiong said the big objection was to layoffs.

" We had no reason to. There was no reason to lay off our employees ," said Xiong.

It's not clear who all of the laid off employees will be, but Brand expects some of city's code enforcement workers to be let go. Quintero said that is another example of dividing the city. Code enforcement is most needed in the less affluent parts of town.

"By laying off those employees you are cutting off those services that for example code enforcement is one of the big ones we utilize, southwest, southeast, south central Fresno High, all those are ones that have more of a need for code enforcement," said Quintero

The council members that support the layoffs are the same block that supported Measure G, the garbage privatization plan pushed by Mayor Ashley Swearengin and that was defeated by voters. The Mayor based her own budget plan on $4 million in fees paid to the city by the private garbage company. Swearengin had vowed major layoffs would be needed if Measure G failed.

But after voters rejected Measure G, the city "discovered" about $6 million of unexpected revenue. That made layoffs seem unnecessary to many. Dee Barnes, president of the Fresno City Employees Association says there are those who suspect the current layoff plan is payback for the failure of Measure G.

"The sense for quite a few of our members is that up until the day of the election a couple of council members and the mayor were continuing to tell the public if Measure G failed there would be dozens and dozens of layoffs. And yes, there is that sense that because they said that there's a sense they have to do that to save face," said Barnes.

Brand disputes that, and says despite the unexpected money, the city is not out of the woods financially and needed to make cuts to create a reserve fund for unexpected expenses.

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