Mayor Ashley Swearengin addressed the Fresno city council Thursday with her 10-year budget proposal.
The city is facing a $2 million deficit; the Mayor says it’s expected to grow out of control in the coming years. She feels there’s only one way to put Fresno back in the black.
The Mayor’s plan is expected to balance the city’s budget over the next 10 years but it won’t come without a cost. “If we don’t have the kind of concessions we’re talking about it is absolutely detrimental to the public and our employees,” says Fresno’s Mayor Ashley Swearengin.
Fresno’s facing a $2-million deficit; the number is expected to shoot up to $16 to 18-million next year and to $66 million over the next five years. “Frankly, I don’t think there’s a way to close the kind of gap that we have by issuing more layoffs,” says Swearengin.
The city says 80% of its general fund money is used to pay employee’s salaries. The Mayor says the only way to make up the $16+ million deficit is employee concession. “There is no plan B that does not have a serious consequence to the public who we are hired to represent. So at this point, we are saying we have to have cooperation from bargaining groups and that is it,” says Swearengin. Fresno Police Officers Association Representative Damon Kurtz says, “This hinders negotiations; it hamstrings them, it hamstrings us when you go in with set parameters that limit your ability to negotiation—how do you come to an agreement?”
If the city can’t balance the budget over the next 10 years, it could face another credit downgrade.
“What we have heard from many is they are willing to take concessions and they have before and they’d do it again. But they are waiting to see if the Police Officers Association will come forward and do the same thing,” says Swearengin. “We’re going to sit back down and talk with them and come to some kind of agreement we can both live with,” says Kurtz.
If you look at negotiations between the city and some of the city unions, records show it takes quite some time for the two parties to come to an agreement.
City Council is expected to vote on the Mayor’s plan next Thursday.
Over the past three years, the city has addressed nearly $100 million in budget shortfalls.
Christina Lusby Reporting.