"We can expect at the end of 5 years to finally return to stable ground."
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin remains optimistic that the city will finally have it's budget balanced in 5 years... Thanks to a little help from a surplus surprise...
There's now a little budget relief for the city of Fresno tonight, as administrators found an extra $4 million dollars in sales tax revenue.
It's good news for the city budget, but is it good news for employees?
You might think that with an extra $4 million dollars, city hall might hold off on asking employees for more concessions.
Well, that's not the case... The mayor says it's part of her plan to finally get the city out of debt.
When the mayor started planning for the coming fiscal year, she expected the city to be about $5 million dollars short of budget.
Well now, it's only at $1.3 million... Thanks to an extra $4 million the city says it didn't see coming...
$3 million came from extra sales tax revenue...
The other million came from a property tax increment following the RDA shut-down.
But the extra cash really hasn't swayed the mayor's financial expectations...
She still wants to privatize trash service.
"We've got to see some modest concessions and we've got to get a handle on our health care costs and if we do those things, we can expect at the end of five years to finally return to stable ground."
But to get to 2018, the city still has to chip away at $18 million dollars it borrowed from itself.
So according to the mayor, this special find of $4 million in sales tax revenue barely makes a dent.
"It'd be like having a $5000 bill on your credit card and finding a $20 bill in your pocket that you didn't expect. It's really great to find the $20, but you still have a long way to go to pay off your credit card."
At a budget workshop with city council, city manager Mark Scott laid out the 5-year plan for a balanced budget.
The plan shows that if privatization, concessions, and health care costs are met, the city can start to increase staffing levels by 2016.
For example, the city's police force has been reduced to 717 officers... But the mayor says she'll be able to hire another 15 in as early as 2 years.
"15 officers in the next 5 years? When we lose anywhere from 10-15 a year? Where does that put us to gain 15 officers? I mean, that's just one year's attrition."
FPOA president Jacky Parks says that figure is based on assumptions.
He says "assuming" is what's keeping the city in debt.
"That scares me. We should be presenting our budgets, whether it's one year of 5 years, we should present those budgets based on factual information."
FPOA says the city could've had an extra $4-million dollars for this fiscal year...
Last year, the union dug around and found it had that amount to spare.
Had the city taken it, it might've been at a $3 million dollar surplus now.
But as it stands, there is a deficit, and the mayor maintains that in order to eliminate it, the city must proceed with the privatization of trash service.