Fresno, California

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Fresno is one of the five largest cities in California. It is the county seat of Fresno County. As of the 2010 census, the city' s population was 510,365, making it the fifth largest city in California, the largest inland city in California, and the 34th largest in the nation. Fresno is located in the center of the San Joaquin Valley of Central California, approximately 200 miles (322 km) north of Los Angeles, and 170 miles (274 km) south of the state capital, Sacramento, and 160 miles (257 km) east of Seaside on the Pacific Ocean. Metropolitan Fresno has a population of 1,107,416. The name Fresno is the Spanish language word for the ash tree, and an ash leaf is featured on the city's flag.

Budget

The city's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30. The city budget is developed annually in conjunction with the Mayor, departments, and City Manager. It is then sent to the City Council for approval.[1]

The mayor's proposed budget for FY 2011-2012 included public employee pay cuts of 3% across the board. The proposed general fund budget totalled $214,619,000 for the fiscal year.[2]

Since the budget's passage through the city council, the firefighter's union has agreed to a 2.5% percent pay cut estimated to save the city $660,000. Likewise, the Fresno City Employees Association has agreed to a 3% pay cut, which is estimated to save $300,000. Talks are still continuing with the city's police union.[3] The final budget will be presented to the people in August, 2011.

Credit rating

Fresno had its ratings on $462 million of debt lowered one step by Moody’s Investors Service because of deteriorating finances. The city’srating was cut to A3, the fourth-lowest investment grade, from A2. Its pension obligation bonds were downgraded to Baa1, third-lowest, from A2 and its lease-revenue bonds fell to Baa2, one step lower, from Baa1. The outlook for the ratings is negative, meaning another downgrade is possible.[4]

Public employees

Elected officials

Mayor

The current mayor is Ashley Swearengin. She was sworn into office in January, 2009. Fresno is a "strong mayor" government, which means that the mayor acts the city's top level executive.[5]

City council

Current members, Chula Vista City Council
District Councilmember
1 Blong Xiong
2 Steve Brandau
3 Oliver Baines
4 Paul Caprioglio
5 Sal Quintero
6 Lee Brand
7 Clint Olivier

Administrative officials

A city organizational chart can be found here. Fresno's City Manager is appointed directly by the Mayor. The current City Manager is Mark Scott. The City Manager is responsible for overseeing the operations of the city's 14 departments, and is accountable directly to the Mayor.[6]

Salaries

The city publishes salary information for its employees. Salaries for top elected and administrative officials are as follows:[7]

Position Salary
Mayor $130,000.00
President of the Council $70,169.52
City Council Member $65,000.04
City Manager $189,500.00
Assistant City Manager $162,804.00
Deputy City Manager $105,999.96
City Attorney $175,684.92
Police Chief $169,700.83
City Clerk $97,284
All other department heads $126,000-$160,404

Pensions

Public employee pensions for non-emergency employees are managed by the City of Fresno Retirement System. Employees are eligible after 5 years of service or at age 55. Retirement benefits are based on length of service, age, and salary amount upon retirement. Once eligible to receive benefits, employees may opt to participate in a Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) in which their pay, benefits, COLA's, and interest are added to a DROP account for a maximum additional 10 years.[8]

In July, 2011, City Manager Mark Scott announced that he will investigate the DROP program. According to Scott, retirees are receiving guaranteed high interest rates on their DROP investment accounts, which could cost taxpayers millions.[9]

Lobbying

See also: California government sector lobbying

For 2007 and 2008, Fresno spent $204,820 on lobbying.[10]

Transparency and public records

In August, 2010, the city made public employee salary information readily available online.[11]

Information is provided online on how to access public records under the California Public Records Act.[12]

Taxes

The city collects a business tax, through the Department of Finance. Taxes are either a flat rate, or determined at a rate set by a business' tax code classification.[13]

Website evaluation

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Budget Y
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Meetings Y
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Elected Officials Y
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Administrative Officials Y
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Permits, zoning N
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Audits Y
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Contracts N
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Lobbying N
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Public Records Y
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Local Taxes Y
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Transparency grading process

The good

  • Current and previous budget information is available online.[14]
  • City meeting schedules, agendas, and minutes are available.[15]
  • Elected officials' names and contact information is available[16][17]
  • Key administrative officials' information is available on each departments' webpage, accessible through the city directory.[18]
  • Audits are accessible.[19]
  • Contact information, as well as service fees, are provided for the Office of the City Clerk for fulfilling public records requests.[20]
  • Information is provided on county and state taxes effecting residents of the city.[21]
  • Business tax information is available.[22]
  • The city lists all applicable fees annually.[23]

The bad

  • City contracts are unavailable on the website of the Office of the City Clerk.[24]
  • Building permit forms are not accessible online.[25]
  • The website provides no information on membership in any tax-payer funded lobbying associations.

External links

References