More cops, parks and a senior center proposed at Fresno city budget hearing

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno Mayor Lee Brand says the key to his more than $1 billion city budget is increasing the reserve. More than $30 million, which is about ten percent of the city's general fund, is the money the city has discretion on how to spend.

"I am strongly recommending we leave the money in the reserve," Brand said at Monday's budget hearing. "I understand the temptations. I understand there's a laundry list of projects that need to be funded."

And one of those projects is a senior citizens center. Fresno is among the only cities without one, and with nearly a third of the population in the senior category, advocates are pushing for their own, stand-alone center.

"Are we important to you? I hope so," said resident Shirley Peters.

Council Member Esmerelda Soria took a step.

"I am going to make a motion today to put a million dollars on the table to secure a specific senior center for you guys," she said.

A senior center would be funded through the parks department, which is in line for only a tiny increase by the Mayor.

Councilmember Miguel Arias said the city parks and restrooms are in poor condition, and the Mayor's budget is not nearly enough.

"I dont know how we can stand here and say a one percent in the parks department available resources is sufficient," he said.

Councilmember Luis Chavez proposed putting another $1 million into parks.

"We can expand soccer fields and different programs and services we have," he said.

One department in line for a sizable budget boost is the Fresno Police Department, with a proposed 9.5 percent increase, but no additional officers.

"When you see a budget increase, but you don't see personnel it begs the question why and I wanted to make sure you had the why," said police chief Jerry Dyer.

Dyer explained the money would go for new cars, bulletproof vests, and helicopter maintenance.

But Councilmember Garry Bredefeld proposed using the money for homeless housing, reserve funds and ending the city's new rental registry program to come up with $4 million to hire 15 cops and 10 dispatchers to the department. He opposed additional money for parks.

"Ultimately if we don't have a safe city more parks just creates another venue for the homeless and criminals to hang out in," Bredefeld said.

All the proposals made by the council members for more cops, more parks, and a senior center will be part of a wish list, that will be decided at the end of the budget process, and are subject to the Mayor's veto.

Dyer told the council he could use an additional 40 officers now.

The budget hearings will continue until the end of June, and we can expect additional proposals to tape the Mayor's reserve.
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