Fresno Leaders Announce the State of the 2009 Budget

By: Nicole Garcia and Kyra J. Neyland

Fresno - Fresno is going into 2009 with a budget surplus and nearly $18 million dollars in the reserve fund.

But Mayor Alan Autry, and Mayor-elect Ashley Swearengin say there will still be budget cuts this year, and even more cuts in 2010.

"Year 2010 projections will reflect a decrease in revenue, at the same time the cost of personnel and retirement are growing by $11.2 million, which includes a $4 million increase to the retirement contribution," said Mayor Alan Autry.

In 2008, the mayor asked department heads to reduce their spending by 1.5%.

By the middle of this year, they're being asked to cut an additional 2.3% from their budgets, and in 2010 the cuts will be deeper - nearly 6%.

In all, the city could reduce the budget somewhere in the ballpark of $6 million in the next 6 months, and nearly double that in 2010.

The city does have $18 million dollars in a reserve fund - but there are no plans to touch that account.

"I'm not going to support on my last day going into the reserve," said Mayor Autry.

"It is set aside for truly a state of emergency, a crisis or natural disaster of some sort.{} I would have to be persuaded significantly to believe we have to tap into the reserves to weather a flattening of our revenues," said Mayor-elect Swearengin.

The city expects less revenue from sales taxes and vehicle registration fees, and property taxes are expected to flatten out.

Mayor-elect Swearingen says her top two priorities going into office are creating jobs and job training, and public safety.

"My expectation is that we can find ways to deliver services at the same level by being more efficient and creative...there's more innovative ways to do the things we've been doing," said Swearengin.

City officials won't know for sure how much of a shortfall we can expect, or even what services may be cut until later this month.

The city staff is still analyzing the numbers and waiting to review sales tax and property tax receipts before they know where the city stands.

With the expected budget cuts, the city expects to have about $245 million in the general fund at the end of this year.