Reedley takes a look at public works, safety budgets

Reedley City Council finalizes 2024-25 budget review with focus on individual department budgets and goals

Reedley City Council members addressing concerns from the public regarding the Bio Lab discovered in the city at its Aug. 8 meeting. (Kenny Goodman)
Serena Bettis
Published June 4, 2024  • 
12:00 pm

REEDLEY – Reedley city staff recently wrapped up their presentation on the city’s budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year, where they reviewed the achievements of various departments, discussed goals and talked about the challenges they foresee in the year ahead. 

At the Reedley City Council meeting on May 28, the public works, engineering, fire and police department heads walked the council through the ins and outs of their respective departments while discussing their budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The budget will be adopted later this month.

Staff have focused their budget presentations on the ways in which they are working to maintain service levels while limiting costs. Previously discussed at the council’s May 14 meeting, the city is working with a general fund budget of just under $20.2 million and is exercising caution to not spend beyond its means.

“There is no doubt that the economy and worldwide tension are strongly signaling that cities should prepare for tough times and proceed cautiously to ensure their fiscal health,” City Manager Nicole Zieba wrote in her community letter in the official budget draft. “But as this city has shown time and again, it can shine in times of chaos by embracing the opportunity for innovation and change.”

Public works, engineering

The public works department oversees the operation and maintenance of city infrastructure, including the city water and sewer systems, parks, fleet and street maintenance, solid waste administration and electrical work. Public Works Director Russ Robertson is proposing expenses of more than $17.5 million and revenues of $18.4 million for the upcoming fiscal year. 

Robertson highlighted some of the department’s accomplishments from the past year, which included completing street slurry seals to improve the quality of the pavement on city streets, privatizing landscaping and lighting maintenance districts and enclosing sewer lift stations with walls and gates to prevent vandalism.

Public works is the only department in the city that is asking for an additional full-time employee to be added to its budget. Robertson said the city currently has only one electrician, who handles the maintenance of more than 1,300 city-owned streetlights, traffic signals and security cameras, electrical needs of all city buildings and more.

“Our electrician is swamped, has way more work than he can handle and we actually could keep two electricians full-time with the workload that we have right now,” Robertson said. “The city is only getting larger, we’re adding streetlights, we’re adding subdivisions, so we are requesting the position.”

The city’s engineering department also supports city infrastructure. Its duties include managing capital roadway projects, reviewing development projects, establishing city standards, plans and zoning maps and overseeing the traffic safety commission. 

City Engineer Marilu Morales reviewed some of the major projects that her department worked on over the last year, including the Olson Avenue wastewater line upgrade, the Active Transportation and Parkway Master Plan and the sports park phase two improvements. 

In her presentation, Morales showed the council images of a pipe that was removed during the Olson Avenue wastewater line upgrade to demonstrate how important completing that project was. The project cost $4.2 million and was funded through a state grant and capital from the wastewater fund. 

“The gasses from the sewage really ate away at that concrete pipe, so we were on borrowed time; this project was definitely needed, and we’re thankful for the funding from the state to be able to get this project done,” Morales said.

Looking ahead, the engineering department is proposing just over $2.9 million in revenue and $3.9 million in expenses. Upcoming projects include improvements to the Reedley Parkway, updating the Utility Master Plan and repaving old city streets.

Public safety

The Reedley Fire Department has a proposed budget of $2.1 million and estimates it will bring in just under $100,000 in revenue, generated from service and fee charges, fines and forfeitures, intergovernmental transfers and grants. The department covers fire and life safety in the community and also handles municipal code enforcement. 

Fire Chief Jerry Isaak said the department has four full-time employees and two part-time employees along with 40 paid-per-call volunteer firefighters. Councilmember Mary Fast said that if the department did not have volunteers, it could easily spend between $4 million and $5 million.

Isaak said that he is proposing to increase volunteer firefighter pay this year “to make it a little more equitable as to what they’re doing now with the cost of everything.”

“They’re using their own time and taking time off of work, and so it’s nice to give a little something back to them for what they’re doing for the city,” Isaak said.

The proposed per-call rate for each rank would increase by $5 and the rate for authorized trainings that are longer than three hours would increase by $20.

Some of the department’s goals for next year include improving response times, pursuing grant opportunities to increase service capabilities and providing professional training to maximize services and response to the community. 

Reedley Chief of Police Joe Garza rounded out the department presentations, covering the department’s budget of more than $10.8 million, the second largest city budget behind the public works department. The department expects to bring in slightly more than $750,000 in revenues for fiscal year 2024-25, which is lower than in previous years due to minimal estimated grant funding. 

A majority of the department’s expenses are attributed to personnel, with 73% of the total department budget going toward salaries and benefits. The police department has 47 full-time employees, three part-time employees and 15 civilian volunteer employees, Garza said.

Looking at performance measures, Garza highlighted department accomplishments from the past year, such as reducing violent crime by 6% between 2022 and 2023, reducing traffic collisions by 18% and reducing property crime by 23%. 

“What we have been doing has been working by reaching out to our community members, letting them know, ‘hey, this is what’s happening, this is how you can be part of the solution,’ because law enforcement alone cannot do it,” Garza said. “We need the entire community to take a proactive step and say ‘what can I do to reduce crime in my neighborhood?’” 

Garza said department goals for the next year include continuing regional and federal partnerships, being more responsive to community mental health needs, developing department staff to be able to hire from within and maintaining high standards of officer training. 

The council plans to adopt the city budget, which is available for the public to view on the city website, at its next meeting on June 11.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter