SAN FRANCISCO, June 7 Votes against a measure
that would privatize garbage service in Fresno to raise revenue
for the cash-strapped California city took a slim lead on Friday
as election officials continued counting ballots.
With about 2,700 ballots left to review, those voting
against outsourcing trash service held a 193-vote lead. Initial
results after Tuesday's special election showed Measure G
passing by 262 votes. The next vote update is scheduled for June
Local governments in the most populous U.S. state have had
to contend with slumping and weak revenue in recent years,
requiring deep spending cuts and appeals to voters for more
revenue to keep budgets balanced. Contracting some services to
the private sector or other public agencies has also been used
to help bolster budgets.
In Fresno, Mayor Ashley Swearengin pressed the ballot
measure as a way to raise fees from a local trash collector that
would take on residential garbage service for the city of
500,000 residents in the state's Central Valley.
Municipal finances in the region are under scrutiny in the
U.S. municipal debt market following the bankruptcy filing last
year by Stockton, another large city in the farming region.
Fresno currently bills households to pick up and dispose of
garbage. Privatizing the service would raise at least $14
million over several years for Fresno from the company taking on
the work from the city.
But the shift would cost about 120 city workers their jobs,
which prompted city employees' unions to contest privatizing the
Separately this week, city leaders in Costa Mesa in Southern
California approved contracting with a security services company
to manage the jail for the city of roughly 110,000 residents.
"It would save us about $3 million over five years," said
Bill Lobdell, a spokesman for Costa Mesa, which last year saw
its more aggressive cost-savings plan to contract out 19
services blocked in court by a union for city employees.