The Bakersfield City Council has approved a $494 million budget for the new fiscal year, which is three-percent more expensive than last year.

The increase is mostly due to pension costs and adding three policemen to patrol downtown. The city expects to cover the difference by a five-percent increase in property tax revenue.

The council has also taken the first step to get rid of watering restrictions on homes and businesses. The unanimous vote at Wednesday night’s meeting approves a Water Board recommendation to ease the rules because the drought is over and residents continue to save double their target conservation rate. A final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for July.

Bruce Freeman was sworn in earlier that afternoon to represent Ward 5 after a special election to replace the late Jeff Tkac. Freeman voted to adopt the new city budget in his very first meeting that evening.

Kelli Forsch