California’s budget allocates millions for local fire and police

California’s 2023-24 budget earmarks funds for Hanford, Kingsburg, Tulare and Orange Cove fire and police departments

Kingsburg Fire Department with Engine 141 parked in front of the open bay door. (Kenny Goodman)
Darren Fraser
Published July 12, 2023  • 
9:00 am

SACRAMENTO – The state’s budget for the next fiscal year is set to allocate funds to local Central Valley communities to help replace aging fire engines, build new fire stations, provide food and housing for the homeless and pave roads in unincorporated areas.

According to a July 10 press release from Senator Melissa Hurtado, 16th District, California’s 2023-24 budget – signed by Governor Gavin Newsom the same day – will provide $290 million to support emergency preparedness and recovery for flood-prone communities. 

“The Legislature passed, and the Governor signed a state budget with significant funding beneficial to the Central Valley, while also preserving $37 billion in the state’s rainy day fund,” Hurtado said in the press release. 

In her press release, Hurtado described the budget funds allocated to local communities as “district specific budget wins.” 

Kingsburg Firefighter Sean Kopas loading tools into the rear compartment of Engine 141. (Kenny Goodman)

At the local level, a substantive question was how the city of Kingsburg would spend the $350,000 budget allocation for its fire department. According to Devin Young, the public information officer for the Kingsburg Fire Department, the money will be applied to updating and replacing the department’s aging equipment.

“This money will be contributed toward acquiring a new apparatus,” Young said. Apparatus has a broad meaning, as it can include vehicles or equipment. 

According to Young, the 18-member department has its share of aging equipment. He said it was too soon to state specifically what equipment might be upgraded or replaced. From the Hanford Fire Department, which received a $1,000,000 budget allocation for a new fire engine for his department, fire chief Steve Pendergrass noted the department’s gratitude.

“This is a huge benefit,” Pendergrass said. 

However, Pendergrass cautioned that the $1,000,000 will be used to purchase the engine only. The other equipment – fire hoses, ladders, jaws of life, etc. – will have to be purchased separately.

“At present, we are down to two engines and a patrol (a pickup truck outfitted with water and fire hoses),” he said. Despite the hefty price tag for a fire engine, Pendergrass said frontline engines have a relatively short shelf life.

“10 to 12 years is about average,” he said.

The Kings Community Action Organization (KCAO) Food Bank and Housing is another Hanford entity that received a financial nod from the new budget. The July 10 press release notes that KCAO, which was founded in 1965, is slated to receive $1,000,000 to provide low-income families with programs and resources.

According to Hurtado’s press release, the city of Tulare and Tulare County also received windfalls from the new budget. 

The budget earmarked $1,000,000 for the Tulare Fire Department to purchase a new fire engine. In addition to the $500,000 to provide housing for the county’s homeless, Tulare County received $1,000,000 for road paving in unincorporated areas of the county. 

Kingsburg Firefighter Sean Kopas inspecting Engine 141’s pump controls. (Kenny Goodman)

Orange Cove also benefited from the budget’s largesse. According to Hurtado’s press release, the city will receive $350,000 to fund a planning study for a new fire station. Orange Cove Assistant City Manager Dario Dominguez believes that, without allocation, the city would not have been able to fund the study on its own.

“We are a poor community,” Dominguez said. “It’s been that way for a couple of years. We could not have afforded to pay for the study.”

Other local communities to receive budget money include: McFarland, which will receive $5,000,000 for a new police station; Avenal, $1,000,000 for public safety equipment and capital improvements; and Wasco, $5,000,000 for its police station.

Tulare County Homeless Housing, which received $500,000 from the budget, does not have a web presence. As of press time, Tulare County has not commented on it or which county department oversees the program.

Without question the biggest benefactor from these wins was the neighboring region of Kern County. The 2023-24 budget set aside $10,500,000 for the Fentanyl Addiction and Overdose Prevention Task Force. This allocation was more than double any funds allocated for other local cities or entities. Another $500,000 was set aside for the Kern County Fentanyl Awareness Campaign. 

There is little information on the internet regarding the task force. According to the California Department of Public Health Office of Communications, “Because AB-101 Budget Act of 2023 referenced by Senator Hurtado in her news release was just signed and announced yesterday, this task force has likely not yet been created.”

Darren Fraser