Fresno County Board of Supervisors Chairman Brian Pacheco speaks during the annual State of the County Event Thursday afternoon. Photo by David Castellon.
Written by David Castellon
Fresno County started out the new fiscal year with improved relations with Fresno city leaders, and — if the Board of Supervisors approves the proposed new annual budget — will operate with the largest budget in its history.
The proposed budget is more than $3.01 billion, Board of Supervisors Chairman Brian Pacheco told a crowd of nearly 800 gathered this afternoon at the Fresno Convention Center for this year’s State of the County Luncheon.
And the supervisor noted to those in attendance that the proposed budget is balanced.
“In today’s difficult financial environment, that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.”
The new budget, which the supervisors are scheduled to vote on next week, is 10.6 percent higher than last year’s, or $290.1 million more.
Within the budget, Pacheco said, “it increases our county’s reserve by a third, or $7 million. It also pays down existing debt, and — my favorite — it sets aside funds for badly needed capital improvements.”
“I like to build things,” he added.
One of those projects he hinted at involves plans of what to do with the current offices of the county’s Assessor-Recorder, which will relocate from the second floor of the county Hall of Records Annex to the Noble Credit Union building on the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Merced Street, which the county is in the process of buying for more than $2 million.
The board chambers and administrative offices are on the same floor in the Hall of Records Annex, and Pacheco told the audience, “On a side note, I have plans for his soon-to-be vacated space in the Hall of Records,” without offering more details.
But in an interview after the speech, the supervisor said those plans are for the Board of Supervisors to take over that space to make additional room for staff members who currently are working in cramped conditions.
In addition, he said, “The board chamber has been there a long time. We have plans to modernize the board chambers,” which includes expanding it.
“Our chambers are really small. We are in the oldest building in the county, and it has not been updated for decades,” he said, adding that nearly $1 million is being earmarked for the renovations.
Pacheco added that with the Assessor-Controller’s Office leaving, that should free up more parking spaces around the county building.
Pacheco also said in his speech that the county is close to finally ironing out a deal to lease a large office space to house the county District Attorney’s staff in one building rather than in several, as is now the case.
Again, Pacheco offered no further details on the matter, but after his speech said that the preferred locale is the more than century-old, six-story Rowell Building at Van Ness and Tulare avenues, which currently is undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation.
“And we’re finalizing the details of that right now, but no deal has been done, and until we get that paper before the board, there is no deal, he said.”
Pacheco said that under the proposed budget, the county would add new positions. The budget proposal lists funding this fiscal year for 7,773 county employees — 59 more than in the last fiscal year’s budget, which ended June 30 of this year.
The county also has the funds to increase salaries of county employees, “to be competitive in the marketplace,” Pacheco said, and told the audience, “If you want more details, you are welcome to follow our budget next week.
As for the county’s relationship with the city of Fresno, Pacheco said, “Over the past decade, the two governing bodies have had a strained relationship, at best,” and one of his goals was to improve that relationship.
It turned out that Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, had the same goal, Pacheco said in his speech, in which he noted that the mayor was sitting with him at his luncheon table.
“We soon set up an ad hoc committee to lay the framework to have our two governing bodies have a formal meeting and to discuss on an ongoing basis how we can best work together for the benefit of everyone we serve, and I believe that goal has been achieved,” Pacheco said.
“That meeting was a success, but the real benefit of the meeting is the continuation of us continuing to meet on a regular basis to keep the lines of communication open between the county and the city.”