Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer proposed an increase in garbage collection rates as part of his $1.85 billion 2024 budget on Thursday morning.
However, he declined to estimate how big the potential increase might be.
Residents currently pay $25.37 monthly for garbage pickup (gray bin), as well as $3.87 for green waste (green bin) and $3.74 for recyclables (blue bin). There are discounts for seniors and those using smaller gray bins.
“We haven’t had a raise since 2009,” Dyer said about the garbage collection rates. “That’s 14 years — 14 years of increased salaries, 14 years of increased PG&E rates and other inflationary things” City Hall has absorbed.
Dyer said the solid waste division has depleted its reserves and needs the hike to maintain services. Water and sewer are in a similar position, but Dyer said that he only wanted to ask for one increase at this time.
During his presentation at a special city council meeting, Dyer said the solid waste division has operated from $3 million in the red. The city may need to cover a $12 million deficit. The difference is whether the city fills all vacancies and improves its equipment. Increase in fuel costs also played a part in the proposed rate hike.
If the rate doesn’t go up, the mayor said, City Hall would have to leave positions vacant and it wouldn’t be able to purchase needed vehicles and equipment.
— David Taub (@TaubGVWire) May 18, 2023
A Tough Sell on City Council
Dyer’s ask to raise rates is likely to meet resistance on the Fresno City Council, especially with an election looming. Five of the seven councilmembers plan to run for an office in 2024.
“We did not want to come forth with a rate increase. Nobody does. No elected official does. Obviously, we haven’t had a rate increase since 2009,” Dyer said.
City councilmen Miguel Arias and Luis Chavez are both running for the same Fresno County Supervisor seat. Both say they are a “hard no.”
Chavez said he is “100% opposed!”
“People are struggling with high gas prices, inflation and rent/mortgage payments.. especially seniors on fixed incomes,” Chavez said.
Arias questioned the need for rates.
“The days of simply passing on higher cost to residents, in my view, are behind us,” he said.
Garry Bredefeld is running for another supervisor seat next year.
“Opposed to any rate increases or tax hikes. Period,” Bredefeld texted.
Tyler Maxwell and Mike Karbassi were inclined to accept a rate hike. Both are running for city council re-election in 2024.
“Looking at any and all options I just don’t want to be one of those politicians who passes the buck,” Karbassi said.
Maxwell would rather not dip into the general fund to cover the shortfall.
“We’d have to cut back on public safety. We probably have to cut back on infrastructure as well,” Maxwell said. “We need to rob Peter to pay Paul.”
Maxwell acknowledges it will be a “lively debate.”
Annalisa Perea is going through her first budget. She says she needs to look at the plan.
Dyer said they could borrow money from another public utility division to “in order to make that less painful on the community.” The city could also lease vehicles instead of buy new, Dyer said.
Rate Increase Subject to Prop 218 Requirements
Dyer noted that PG&E rates have skyrocketed during the past two years. But unlike the situation where ratepayers can do little about electricity and gas rates except complain, Fresnans have a voice in their garbage, water, and sewer rates via Proposition 218.
The intent of Prop. 218 is to ensure that all taxes and most charges on property owners are subject to voter approval.
Under the proposition, a utility increase rate is subject to a protest vote. If a majority of ratepayers protest the hike, usually in the form of a card mailed to the city, the rate increase wouldn’t take effect.
There will be public hearings on the proposed increase and the city council also must approve any change in the rates.
Dyer said that his proposed budget “flows from his core vision: an inclusive, prosperous, beautiful city where residents and businesses take pride in their neighborhood and their community. A government that listens, keeps its promises and is owned by the people. A culture that says, ‘We work for you.”
This budget has only limited help from federal pandemic relief ARPA funds totaling $185 million that has been nearly completely spent or budgeted.
Dyer said $38.5 million of ARPA funding carried over from last year will help with housing projects. Dyer also said that the prior ARPA funds were spent on one-time projects, such as the forthcoming 911 dispatch center, and will not require an equal amount of cuts to balance the budget. The center is scheduled to open in 2025.
Potholes, Dyer said, are one of the top issues that Fresno residents want to see addressed. His proposal would result in the repair time dropping from three days down to one. It will also allow fix-it crews to be more proactive to shore up city streets.
Dyer also touted 182 parks and recreation projects in the works, financed by the Measure P sales tax, Proposition 68 funds, and other sources. That is up from six projects just a few years ago.
“With the expectation I think sometimes of people, is that the money comes in, you flip a switch and everything is green. But they don’t realize there’s a design process, a community input process. Then there is a construction process after you do all the design and engineering. So it is a process to get there. That’s why this is a 30 year measure,” Dyer said.
Miscalculation of Measure P Funding
However, Dyer said a miscalculation overestimated last year’s Measure P revenue by $10 million. City accountants failed to factor the portion of the taxes that goes to the county and state. The parks department budgeted on the actual amount that came in, instead of the estimated amount. This year’s budget estimates $48.2 million from the parks sales tax in addition to $39.6 million carried over from last year.
The city council will start budget deliberations on June 5 and it must approve the budget by June 30.
Here is a quick look at the budget:
- Police Department: The budget includes a total of 900 sworn officers, including 12 positions added with a recent grant; eight emergency dispatchers including two supervisors; safety equipment for officers; an alternate mental health crisis response program.
- Fire Department: Four new firefighter positions for a total of 375 firefighters; safety equipment and training; lease of two replacement engines and five vehicles.
- Pothole repairs: $1,765,100 dedicated pothole crews and equipment.
- Traffic Safety: 24 new traffic signals; 18 traffic signal modifications and upgrades; nine HAWK pedestrian crossing signals; “quick-build” school safety traffic improvements.
- Beautify Fresno: Creation of four teams of two employees per team at a cost of $600,000.
- Parks: Measure P revenue is budgeted at $48.2 million; plus $39.6 million carried over from the last budget. Capital projects include greenspace, trails, and senior/youth activities.
Last year, the city council adopted a $1.7 billion budget.