Jerry Dyer is worried that without another round of federal relief money, the city could be facing a severe budget shortfall.
This week, the Fresno mayor warned of a potential $30 million deficit in comments to the Washington Post.
At a news conference at the Welcome Inn on Wednesday, Dyer renewed his support for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic package.
“I believe it is absolutely critical to our city and to our county — where we are number two in the state of California in poverty. We have a lot of needs that are unmet right now and we owe it to our people to be able to meet those needs. That relief package is something that’s going to help us,” Dyer said.
If those funds do not come, Dyer said there may have to be cuts to public safety. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the measure next week.
Public Safety in Jeopardy without Federal Funds
After state and city emergency orders shut down many businesses and altered life and freedom of movement, the city expected the worst. Early estimates were losses of $32 million for Fiscal Year 2021.
At the request of then-mayor Lee Brand, the City Council did not pass a budget until October 2020, four months later than normal. Cuts were spared because of the more than $90 million in federal funds from the CARES Act.
Dyer warns that public safety cuts may happen without a new infusion of federal dollars.
“If those federal funds don’t come to our jurisdiction, we have to have some serious discussions about where we’re going to balance our budget. And as many folks knows, the majority of our budget is in public safety. Those are the discussions we have to have about not filling vacancies, hopefully not get to the point of layoffs, but a loss of our ability to serve this community in the manner in which we desire,” Dyer said.
In the current budget, police use 51% ($196 million) of the general fund; the fire department uses 19% ($73 million).
Federal Funds Can Help
He said the pandemic has led to a reduction of revenue sources in Fresno — including business license taxes and hotel taxes. Dyer also said Fresnans are $5 million behind in paying their utility bills.
Dyer said Biden’s package would help the city in many aspects — housing, revenue shortfalls, utilities and rent, vaccinations and school openings. FEMA funds might be able to be used for housing projects.
“All of those dollars are the dollars that we’re going to pursue,” Dyer said.