Fresno

Dyer’s budget proposal heavy on public safety, surprising Measure P funds

With a bevy of Federal cash at the city’s disposal, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer unveiled his Fiscal Year 2023 budget in front of City Hall on Wednesday. 

Dyer will present the $1.727 billion budget to the Fresno City Council on Thursday, which includes nearly $90 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. 

General fund departments account for $556.6 million of the budget, and enterprise and internal service departments total $814.7 million. 

Fresno’s general fund reserve balance is set to be $40 million, Dyer said. 

Dyer’s budget proposal is heavy on public safety investments and revealed that Measure P funds will be far greater than originally anticipated. 

The budget proposal also featured downtown improvements, city-wide beautification efforts, housing and homelessness efforts. 

However, Dyer’s vision for Fresno will ultimately not come to fruition completely through the budget as the City Council will tweak it to match its own wants. 

Fresno Police Department

“Community safety will always be the foundation for any mayor,” Dyer said. “After two years of steady increases, we are beginning to see the number of violent crimes decreasing in our city. However, we must build upon that momentum.” 

Dyer’s plan to build on that momentum is to add 37 new sworn positions to the Fresno Police Department, which includes 33 officers and four sergeants. 

His proposal would bring the city to 888 police officers, which Dyer said would be the highest number of officers in Fresno history. 

Those additions include five officers and one sergeant to the metro bike unit, also knows as the downtown police unit, which would double its size. 

Another addition would be to add police officers to the city’s middle schools – 13 officers and one sergeant. 

Dyer is also seeking to add 10 officers to the newly-created street racing team to patrol street races and side shows. 

The FAX transportation department will also see five officers and sergeant added. At its peak, the department had 22 officers but currently has none. 

The Park Ranger program would be established with 20 employees who will patrol the city parks on a daily basis. 

Five dispatchers would also be added to cover all emergency calls. 

Dyer’s plan would allocate $630,000 for ShotSpotter to continue the department’s gunshot detection monitoring and rapid response to gun violence. 

The proposed budget also includes $10 million to design and develop a new 911 dispatch center. 

Dyer’s last proposal with the police department is $1.2 million to establish a mental health triage and response program, which would address the Commission on Police Reform’s recommendation to develop an alternate response to mental health calls. 

“This is long overdue, and it is time that our police officers no longer respond to mental health type calls in our city unless there is a danger presented to the public,” Dyer said. 

Fresno Fire Department

“Our fire department continues to be one of the busiest fire departments in the nation when you compare the number of calls they handle to the number of personnel they have,” Dyer said. 

The budget proposal would add 24 new firefighters through the pending SAFER Grant, which totals $1.8 million. 

That would bring the total number of firefighters to 371, an increase of 66 over the last two years. 

Dyer’s proposal would utilize $1.1 million in ARPA funds for equipment and fire drill school. 

The proposal would also allow for a fourth medical squad with the fire department, which consists of two firefighters each that respond to medical aid calls, in turn freeing up staff for fire-related calls. 

Homelessness and housing

“We made tremendous strides in addressing our homeless population through Project Offramp, which is evidenced by the absence of homeless people on our freeways, as well as other parts of our city,” Dyer said. “This remains my administration’s top priority.” 

Dyer did not detail a specific dollar amount in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget regarding homelessness, but he was optimistic that Fresno will continue to receive funding from the state over the next few years to provide services and pay for emergency shelters. 

In turn, Dyer’s proposal would see $40 million in ARPA funds go directly toward addressing housing, which he said would help the city meet its short-term housing needs and also provide long-term housing stability. 

Downtown Clean-Up, Revitalization

Dyer’s proposal would allocate $300,000 for increased trash removal downtown, daily pressure washing of sidewalks and more frequent street sweeping. 

An additional $300,000 would be used to promote special events and parades unique to downtown and other entertainment districts, including the Tower District. 

Chukchansi Park would see a $2.7 million investment to replace the turf, install a recycled water delivery system, paint the stadium and other facility improvements required by Major League Baseball. 

Dyer is also proposing $161,000 for a free trolley service that would start in the spring of 2023 and run from the brewery district downtown to the cultural arts district, the Tower District, Fresno City College and Campus Pointe, which is adjacent to Fresno State. 

“We want those people who live in those colleges and attend to be our future residents downtown,” Dyer said. 

Beautify Fresno

“Fresno residents want to live and work in neighborhoods that are beautiful, absent of blight, graffiti and trash – neighborhoods that have quality streets, sidewalks, trails and parks – a city that quite frankly makes them proud,” Dyer said. 

Dyer’s proposal would allocate $250,000 for an additional graffiti abatement team that will operate a lift truck. 

The budget would sent $4.7 million to continue litter abatement efforts, including $1.75 million to enhance beautification efforts on business and transit corridors, including near the airport “to ensure those visiting Fresno have a good first impression,” Dyer said. 

Infrastructure

Dyer said his administration is working to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into neighborhood infrastructure over the next few years. 

For the upcoming budget, Dyer is proposing $26 million in ARPA funds and $12.4 million in general funds to improve neighborhood streets, sidewalks, curbs and gutters. 

He is also pushing $400,000 to support Councilman Tyler Maxwell’s Thousand Tree Initiative. 

Parks

Measure P, Fresno’s parks tax, was initially expected to add $35 million annually to the budget. 

But Dyer said that due to economic stimulation, the three-eights-cent sales tax is projected to result in $58.3 million in the new budget. 

Dyer’s proposal totals $74.8 million in Measure P funds, which includes $16.5 million in carryover from last year. 

While $62.2 million has already been spoken for, Dyer proposes that the remaining $12.8 million be allocated in the following ways: 

  • $33.5 million for improving and maintaining safe and clean neighborhood parks
  • $16.1 million for new neighborhood parks and senior and youth recreation facilities
  • $7.3 million to support safe walking and bike trails, street beautification and litter removal as well as the San Joaquin River Parkway
  • $4.2 million for youth and senior recreation programs

In addition to the Measure P funds, Dyer is also proposing to allocate $9.5 million of ARPA funds and $500,000 in general funds to design and develop the southeast regional parks – including a 49 acre park at Peach Ave. and California Ave. – and the Van Ness Ave. and Weldon Ave. park. 

Planning and Development

Dyer’s budget proposal would also add three new project administrator positions to the city’s planning and development department to provide concierge services on housing, commercial and development projects. 

“Our city can’t grow, whether it’s residential or commercial or industrial, unless we have concierge service in the planning development department to expedite those projects,” Dyer said. 

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.