Public safety boost in Fresno County budget bonanza

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno County's new budget should mean a safer county, according to everyone who signed off on a unanimously passed budget Thursday.

Without much conflict, Fresno County supervisors all agreed on a big new budget. It calls for more than $2.6 billion in spending, a 30% increase over last year's budget. Almost $370 million of it goes to "justice services", including funding for 58 new positions in the sheriff's office. Supervisors agreed the big winner was public safety.

"There will be more deputies on the street so response times will decrease, I believe," said supervisor Henry Perea. "It means our jail will be fully staffed so that when people are brought to jail they'll stay there."

But with 28 deputy jobs sitting unfilled, luring new blood becomes just as important as having open positions. Supervisors will find even more money to help Sheriff Margaret Mims compete with neighboring police chiefs when it comes to salaries and more.

"We have to deal with the market realities and I think one way that is fiscally responsible to try to bring in talent is to maybe offer an incentive bonus for those willing to sign up but also those who are able to get through the process," said supervisor Andreas Borgeas.

But while most departments are seeing increases over last year, not everyone is getting everything they want. If there's one place you may not be safer, supervisor Buddy Mendes says it's on the roads.

"You get into the rural areas - especially anywhere from Reedley all the way to Coalinga - I mean, there are some horrible roads," he said.

And district attorney Lisa Smittcamp didn't get the money she requested for more prosecutors or the public administrator's office. Still, her office tells Action News they, like most everyone, are generally happy with the budget.

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