Fresno

Fresno lawmakers slice proposed pay raise, approve $1.9bil budget unanimously

After a week of taking heat for pushing for a 69 percent raise, the Fresno City Council decided Thursday to scale back its pay bump. 

Councilmembers Tyler Maxwell, Luis Chavez and Mike Karbassi introduced a bill last week that would have increased the councilmembers’ salaries from $80,000 to $130,044, which would match what members of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors make. 

The raises would only go into effect for councilmembers at the start of a new term. Council members Miguel Arias, Luis Chavez and Nelson Esparza would receive the raise in January, and incoming councilwoman Annalisa Perea would come in at that salary. 

But in response to heavy negative feedback in the community, lawmakers amended the proposal to raise the salaries to $92,000 starting in January. 

“I do want to say in that week’s time since we introduced it to now there has been a lot of feedback from the community, and I just want to say I really appreciate it,” Maxwell said. “That’s one of the reasons that we oftentimes will introduce an item before we take a vote, because we really do take into consideration and value that public feedback that we get.” 

Incremental pay bumps will follow in 2024 and 2025 at $101,200 and $111,320, respectively. 

Whoever holds the rotating position of council president will take home a salary 12.5 percent greater than the council’s salary, which comes in at $103,500 in 2023, $113,850 in 2024 and $125,235 in 2025 and thereafter. 

Just like last week, the amendment was introduced and will be brought back before the council at its next regularly scheduled meeting on July 21 for adoption. 

Along with the councilmembers getting a pay bump at the start of a new term, so will the mayor. 

Last week’s proposal would have set the mayor’s salary to $210,447. The mayor’s new salary will start at $149,500 in 2023 and rise to $164,450 in 2024 and $180,895 in 2025. 

However, just like the resolution is written for the council, the salary increase for Fresno’s top politician will only go into effect at the start of a new term. 

Mayor Jerry Dyer requested that the council cap the mayor’s salary at $149,500 until 2029, which would mark the end of a potential second term in office for him. 

But the council declined due to the possibility that Dyer might not win a second term. 

The council voted 5-2 to introduce the bill, with Council members Garry Bredefeld and Esmeralda Soria casting votes in opposition. 

As drafted, both Bredefeld and Soria would be ineligible to benefit from the salary proposal.

2022-2023 budget sails through with no opposition

After a contentious 5-2 vote last year to approve the budget, this year the council stood together on an unanimous 7-0 vote to sign off on the new budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. 

At $1.9 billion, the 2022-2023 fiscal year budget is the largest in the history of Fresno. 

“This is unprecedented, unprecedented in the sense that with the investments that we made into our community with this budget – a $1.9 billion budget that includes internal service funds,” Dyer said. 

“This budget again provides unprecedented investments in our neighborhoods and housing, in our parks and public safety, both police and fire department, youth development, as well as our intervention and prevention efforts in terms of reducing crime in our city.” 

Dyer highlighted the boost to public safety that the budget offers as the number of police officers grows to 888 and the number of firefighters will increase to 371, both of which will come in as the highest totals in the city’s history. 

At $108.6 million, the Parks and Recreation Department totals the highest in history, in large part due to Measure P and the increased amount of revenue than was expected. 

“That is going to allow us to acquire new land for park development,” Dyer said. “It’s going to allow us to provide the maintenance that we need, provide the facilities, upgrade and improvements to our community centers, increased lighting, development of courts – even pickleball courts that we’ve heard loud and clear this year – and soccer fields and baseball fields, all those things for our youth. And in speaking of our youth, we already have within this budget, thanks to the State of California, $7.4 million for our youth and young adult workforce development program.” 

Dyer highlighted the $1.5 million that is allocated for gang and violence prevention. That includes nearly $1 million that the controversial Advance Peace program is eligible to receive. 

The budget also includes an additional $40 million for housing that adds on to the $20 million that is normally directed that way. 

“That is a sizable investment, and I believe it shows how much we care about people in our community and the fact that we want them to have shelter,” Dyer said. “We want them to have rents that are affordable. We want them to have a roof over their head and to be able to own a home. We’re going to support that effort in our city.” 

Dyer also highlighted the $60 million in the budget that will be used on neighborhood infrastructure, such as streets and sidewalks. 

Additionally, each councilmember will have $10 million in his or her budget to use on neighborhood infrastructure projects of their choosing. 

“This budget hits all the right notes,” said Council President Nelson Esparza. “It focuses on housing and infrastructure and public safety and parks. I want to thank every single member of the council for their 7-0 vote. I think it shows the unity in that when we come together we can build something that really reflects the values of every resident here in Fresno.”

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.