Backers of a proposed sales tax supporting Fresno State have the backing of Fresno’s mayor as they send petition signatures to the Fresno County clerk for review.
“As former police chief and current mayor of Fresno I know that investing in our youth will pay dividends for many, many years to come,” Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer said Tuesday at a Measure E event hosted at Harris Construction.
Dyer, along with a host of other local Republicans, is breaking ranks from the usual GOP “no new taxes” refrain.
It took little more than a month to attract 34,000 signatures, well above the 21,000 needed to qualify the initiative on the March 2024 ballot, Dyer said.
Supporters said they will turn in the signatures to the Fresno County clerk today.
If an initiative receives 110% of the necessary signatures, only a random sampling of signatures is verified, as opposed to every signature being verified.
Would Raise $1.6 Billion From Fresno County Taxpayers
Measure E would add a penny to every $4 of sales in Fresno County, adding up to $1.6 billion for Fresno State over 25 years.
Campaign organizers will request the “Measure E” designation when it goes before the Fresno County Board of Supervisors probably in October, campaign consultant Tim Orman said.
The tax would pay for $360.4 million in renewing facilities, $433.8 million in academic buildings — including new nursing and engineering schools, and $240 million for athletic projects.
Originally brought before voters in November 2022, the tax initiative failed with 52.86% of Fresno County voters opposed. Support largely came from city of Fresno residents south of Shaw. North Fresno, Clovis, and foothill residents voted down Measure E.
Being a voter initiative, Measure E only needs 50% plus one to pass.
Patterson: Little State Money for CSU System
Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), currently serving his fifth term in the state Legislature, said lawmakers have no will to pay for the needs of California State University System schools. He said that with Measure E, Fresno County could fund the university’s capital projects independent of the state.
“When it comes to Fresno State, we are going to cut that tie, we are going to say goodbye to those who don’t care and don’t act,” Patterson said.
Coming off of a nearly $100 million surplus in the California budget for 2022, the state faced a $32 billion deficit this year. Patterson said that for years, he has advocated for more funding for Fresno State with no success.
One of the big projects the CSU system funded was $660 million to San Diego State University to purchase land for a variety of housing and retail projects, including purchasing Qualcomm Stadium.
While Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said SDSU is on the hook for that money, ground leases for the Mission Valley development will provide a revenue stream for the university to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars beyond the lifetime of the bond. He cited Robert Eaton, CSU assistant vice chancellor for financing, as the source for that analysis.
“The thing I love about what Measure E does, it democratizes the ability to pitch in, everybody and anybody, without big sacrifice,” Patterson said. “When everybody pitches in a little, it accumulates to a whole lot.”
Jiménez-Sandoval: Bidding Process Open, Transparent
Harris Construction owner Richard Spencer funded the original Measure E when it went before voters in November 2022.
Orman said this year financial support has broadened beyond the construction magnate.
Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court found that a construction contract to build Gaston Middle School between Spencer’s Harris Construction and Fresno Unified School District was illegal.
The campus will review and select bids for construction projects and submit proposals to the CSU system, according to Jiménez-Sandoval.
“We do not award contracts without having a competitive bidding process,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. “We do not award contracts unless it is the most competitive of the contracts coming forward.”
A seven-person oversight committee authorizes projects proposed by Fresno State officials. The Fresno County Board of Supervisors would select five members, the Fresno State president would select one, and so would the CSU chancellor.
A Future Job for Patterson?
Patterson said he supported Measure E because of the initiative’s transparency. He said the oversight committee would ensure money would be spent as intended, similar to Measure Z.
Oversight committees for the library’s Measure B, the zoo’s Measure Z, and the Measure C transportation tax aren’t compensated.
Committee members for Measure E would set their own salaries, which could be as much as $81,000 a year.
Multiple sources have told GV Wire that Patterson would be interested in one of the oversight board positions. Asked if he would be interested, Patterson did not answer.
(GV Wire’s David Taub contributed to this article.)