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Fresno State Sales Tax Ballot Effort Still Has Only One Donor



Measure E would raise $720 million over 20 years for Fresno State — two-thirds for academics and one-third for athletics. (GV Wire File)
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Local builder Richard Spencer has single-handedly bankrolled the campaign for Measure E, the proposed sales tax to benefit Fresno State, donating nearly $1.5 million as of Monday, according to campaign finance reports.

Thus far, all the reported donations for the “Yes on Measure E, Good to Great for Fresno State 2022” campaign are from “Richard F. Spencer and Affiliates.” His latest contribution of $212,000 was reported on Monday, raising the total to $1,489,719.60.

If Fresno County voters approve the measure — only a simple majority is needed — proponents say it will raise $36 million a year for the university over its 20-year lifespan, with two-thirds going to academic improvements such as expanding nursing training programs and one-third for improvements to athletics programs.

A county sales tax supporting a state universi

First of Its Kind in California

ty would be the first of its kind in California.

Proponents say the sales tax measure is needed to augment the limited state funding now available to Fresno State, and the additional money will boost the university to “world-class excellence.”

The two-tenths of a cent sales tax collected countywide would be in addition to the tenth of a cent sales tax already collected for Fresno Chaffee Zoo’s Measure Z, the eighth of a cent tax for the Fresno County Public Library, and the half-cent sales tax for Measure C that will continue through 2027 even if voters reject its renewal on the November ballot. Residents in the city of Fresno also pay 0.375% for parks’ via Measure P.

In addition to Measures E and C, several city and school district measures are on the ballot, including Measure M, a proposed eighth-of-a-cent sales tax to support facilities and services for veterans in the city of Fresno.

No Other Donations Sought

Measure E spokesman Tim Orman said Spencer’s decision to shoulder the costs of the campaign are not unheard of. Local developer Ed Kashian did the same in 2014 when Lisa Gamoian was running for Superior Court judge, he said.

Orman, whose marketing company is overseeing Measure E’s messaging campaign, said there have been no efforts to actively seek out contributions from other donors.

But he acknowledged that the lack of campaign contributions from other Measure E supporters is not a good look. “That consideration never crossed my mind,” he said.

Some Out of Area Shoppers Would Pay, as Well

The tax would be collected on all purchases in the county, some of which will be from out-of-county consumers such as those making purchases through the Amazon and Ulta warehouses. Orman said organizers have tried to get a handle on just how much of Fresno County’s sales tax revenues are paid by noncounty residents, but the best “guesstimate” is one-quarter to one-third.

If Measure E passes, the California State University system will be responsible for submitting projects to the bond oversight committee that will be formed by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, he said.

CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle declined Monday to discuss what the university system’s role will be in determining how the Measure E money is spent.

“It would be speculative for us to comment about Fresno County Measure E at this time but please feel free to check back after the election takes place,” she said.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email