Voters in Fresno County cast their ballots on at least three tax measures in 2022 — one for roads, another for zoos, and a new one for Fresno State. A revival of the failed Measure E, supporting Fresno State, will in all likelihood appear on a 2024 ballot.
City of Fresno residents also voted on a measure for veterans that failed.
GV Wire did a deep dive into what Fresno County taxpayers have gotten for the sales tax measures in place.
California mandates a tax of at least 7.25% on every dollar of eligible sales tax. Some grocery items as well as service purchases are tax-exempt. Of that first 7.25%, the state takes 6% for the general fund, 1% is divided between local jurisdictions, and .25% goes to local transportation funds.
Fresno County voters also have approved sales tax initiatives to support transportation in its many forms, libraries, and the Chaffee Zoo. And, city of Fresno voters approved a sales tax to fund parks and the arts.
The final sales tax depends on the city or community where you live. Some local residents pay as little as 7.975% while tab is 9.225% in Reedley. So, where you shop determines what you pay for an item when the sales tax is added.
Fresno County’s Freeway System Brought to You By Measure C
Fresno County’s largest tax measure has also yielded some of the most recognizable projects funded by a local tax.
The half-cent sales tax was first passed in 1986 and the first round raised about $750 million, according to Mike Leonardo, executive director of the Fresno County Transportation Authority, the agency overseeing Measure C. Voters later approved a renewal with 78% support.
The second round, expiring in 2027, is expected to bring in between $1.2 billion and $1.7 billion.
The first round went to fund highway expansions such as Highway 180, with 75% of the proceeds going to highway capital improvements according to Measure C documents.
Highways 41, 43, 168, 180, and 201 all underwent significant remodeling using money from state and federal sources with Measure C matching funds.
Measure C 2.0 Promised Road Improvements, Transportation Projects
The twenty-year lifespan of the tax ended in 2006, when it was renewed.
The second round went to expand transportation projects and improve local roads. The 2006 expenditure plan promised to bring 1,200 miles of improvements to roads, among other projects.
The tax expanded Highway 180 to Temperance Avenue and connected Highways 41, 168, and 180 as they are today. It added bike lanes to major streets and widened several avenues, including Temperance Avenue.
Measure C funds are also being used for the construction of Veterans Boulevard, connecting Herndon Avenue to Shaw Avenue across Highway 99.
Newest Measure C Would Go to Road Repair
The current tax expires in 2027 and organizers anticipate putting it up for vote in 2026. Organizers put up for renewal on the November 2022 ballot. It needed two-thirds approval but only received 58% support.
Community groups Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability and Fresno Building Healthy Communities both donated $25,000 to the campaign against Measure C. But a survey of people who described themselves as liberal overwhelmingly voted to renew the measure.
Board members with FCTA are still deciding how Measure C funds would be spent. In 2022, before it didn’t get the two-thirds votes necessary, expenditure plans pegged over 50% of the estimated $6.75 billion for street repair and maintenance.
Measure C has $310 million in its coffers according to the 2020-21 audit, the most recent document published on the website.
Currently, FCTA board members receive a $75 stipend for each meeting, according to Leonardo. The Citizens Oversight Committee does not receive any money, but Leonardo hopes the committee will be compensated in the next round of Measure C.
Measure B Has Collected $356 Million for Libraries
In 1998, voters approved a seven-year tax of .125% for libraries. When it came up for renewal in 2006, voters extended the measure until 2013. On the second renewal, the Board of Supervisors proposed making the tax 16 years, expiring in 2029.
So far, it has raised $356 million in taxes.
Measure B funds support staff salaries, growing collections, program supplies, equipment, vehicles, online resources, databases, lease renovations, and capital projects, according to Fae Giffen, supervising librarian with the Fresno County Public Library. The tax supports 60% of the library’s budget, with the remainder funded by property tax and grant funds.
An attempt to raise the tax in 2008 — under the name Measure L — failed. It would have raised the tax to .25%.
Measure B has paid for most of all FCPL’s capital projects since the passage, including the Betty Rodriguez Public Library near McLane High School, Woodward Park Regional Library, and libraries in Fowler, Caruthers, Mendota, Orange Cove, and Tranquility, according to Giffen.
The Board of Supervisors and the Citizens Renewal Panel recommended putting the initiative up for renewal in 2026, Giffen said, the same year Measure C organizers plan to put up their measure.
Citizen Renewal Panel members are appointed volunteers, Giffen said, and do not receive any payment for their duties. The eleven-member panel reviews spending to make sure money is spent appropriately.
Voters Renew Measure Z with Ease
One of Fresno County’s more popular taxes, according to voter results, Measure Z was renewed with 82.4% of the vote in 2022. The 15-year lifespan expires in 2037.
The Measure first appeared on ballots in 2004, adding .1% to sales tax. It was renewed in 2014, getting 72.26% of the vote. The Zoo Authority, which oversees spending of Measure Z is allowed to spend up to 2% of Measure Z revenue on administrative expenses.
The measure earned $21.1 million in fiscal year 2021-22. Estimated tax revenue for fiscal year 2022-23 is $21.7 million, according to the budget proposal presented Wednesday to the Fresno County Zoo Authority. As of June 30, 2022, it has $35.5 million held in trust for operations and capital projects.
The measure had raised $137 million through 2020.
Multiple calls to the Zoo Authority went unanswered.
Measure Z funded the $11 million Sea Lion Cove, the $62 million African Adventure, and the more recent $42 million Kingdoms of Asia, according to the zoo’s website. The exhibit is slated for a grand opening in June.
Measure P Money Barely Getting Rolling
Fresno’s newest tax measure is also by all rights, its most controversial.
Though passed in 2018, the .375% tax within Fresno city limits did not go into effect until July 1, 2021. California’s Fifth District Court of Appeal found that the measure did not need two-thirds voter approval, as Fresno County Superior Court previously ruled that it did. It passed with 52.17% of the vote.
Plans are still being drafted to spend money from the measure. Currently, the city of Fresno estimates to gain $48.2 million from the sales tax this year, adding to the $39.6 million carried over from last year.
The measure will sunset in 2051.
The intention of the plan is to improve existing green space in Fresno and establish more. It will also go toward youth/senior programs, walking/biking trails, and arts and culture.
Some commissioners on the Parks Recreation and Arts Commission mandated by Measure P expressed frustration when Fresno City Council voted to use $3.6 million of Measure P money without consultation from the group appointed to oversee spending.
Through June 30, 2022, $11.6 million has been spent in Measure P monies.