Fresno's $4 million question

Fresno gets unexpected budget boost, gives a little to parks
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- More than $4 million in unexpected money has fallen into the City of Fresno's lap. The money from the state arrived just in time to finish work on the city budget. But council members struggled over where the money should end up.

"The state owed the city $4 million we didn't expect them to pay that in one lump sum, but we received word yesterday that in fact they would," said Ashley Swearengin, City of Fresno Mayor.

Community Activists have been demanding the city spend more on city parks and the unexpected money had city council member Esmerelda Soria hopeful her plan to boost parks funding by a million dollars would be approved.

But the newest member of the council learned others had their own priorities. Council Member Steve Brandau wanted 1 and a half million more for street repairs. "I'm still at that spot where I would like to see more money spent on fixing streets."

Council Member Lee Brand wanted to put another million into a reserve fund. "By doing this is continues to enhance our credit rating which over time will save the city money in terms of short term borrowing capacity."

In the late budget action council agreed to hire more fire investigators, and some other city staff, and they approved the Mayors last minute request to put need to put nearly a million dollars in the bank for new communications equipment for the police and fire departments.

But Soria's park money failed on a 4 to 3 vote. "You win some and you lose some. I believe there was a missed opportunity here because we are seeing a 4.1 million dollars coming in that we were not anticipating."

But when it comes to parks, all was not lost, the council did agree to Council Member Sal Quintero's idea to spend about half a million for someone to draw up a plan for the city's parks. And local activists who've been pushing to improve parks were pleased.

"Things look much better not only do we have the funding to go forward with the parks master plan update now, but we have started a really robust community dialogue about our need for more parks and parks around the city," said Ashley Werner, activist.

And Mayor Ashley Swearengin said more money for parks could be available after the first of the year. Final action on the city's $1.2 billion budget is expected on Friday. null
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