Fresno State boosters prepping second run at county tax to support programs and facilities

A Friends of Fresno State Campaign Committee has taken initial steps toward a second Fresno County tax measure that would generate revenue to allow the university to better address academic program and facilities issues, with a target to be on the ballot for the March 2024 presidential primary election.

“We’re getting organized to do it again,” said Tim Orman, former chief of staff for Fresno mayors Jerry Dyer and Lee Brand, who helped lead a similar effort that fell short in the November election.

That initiative, Measure E, needed 50% plus one vote to pass, but received 47% of votes cast.

The measure would have increased sales and use tax in the county by 0.2% and in Reedley by 0.25% for a period of 20 years, or one penny on a $5 purchase. It would have generated around $36 million annually, with two-thirds of the tax funds going toward academic facilities and programs, scholarships for local and low-income students and repairs and upgrades for campus infrastructure. No more than one-third of the funds would have gone to athletics facilities, including Valley Children’s Stadium.

Orman said the group, backed by construction company owner Richard Spencer, is in the process of tweaking the measure and its messaging to Fresno County voters.

“A lack of specificity is a part of (why the measure failed in November) and the two-thirds academics and one-third athletics, I don’t think that message was really very well understood,” Orman said. “A lot of people still thought it was a stadium tax. I think if we detail the projects that we want to do and include the stadium it will be much better understood, I hope.”

In filing a Form 410, the committee can collect money in support of the measure. It expects to file a notice of intent with Fresno County by the end of May to start collecting petition signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

“We are appreciative of the continued support from the Friends of Fresno State Committee to help elevate the mission of Fresno State, which expands access to higher education for our Central Valley students and deeply promotes the economic and social well being of our Valley,” university president Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said.

Committee targeting March 2024 election

The committee will have six months to circulate petitions and gain the required signatures, but that was not an issue with Measure E. It collected more than 39,000 signatures in less than two months.

“We’re in the early stages,” Orman said. “We’re probably somewhere around the beginning of May when we hopefully file everything with the county to start the notice of intent process.

“It’s still early. It’s still in the formative stages. But unlike last year, we’ve got an extra four months, plus we have the knowledge of everything we learned last year, which is invaluable.”

Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval ended his 16-minute speech during his investiture ceremony at the Save Mart Center on Sept. 9, 2022 by yelling “Let’s go Bulldogs!”.
Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval ended his 16-minute speech during his investiture ceremony at the Save Mart Center on Sept. 9, 2022 by yelling “Let’s go Bulldogs!”.

Jiménez-Sandoval has said the university has deferred maintenance projects that run to $500 million on campus and, in an ironic twist, as Measure E was going down a major hot water line on campus sprung a leak leaving eight buildings on campus without heat in the middle of November.

The Fresno State president was hopeful then that a second iteration of Measure E would make the ballot in 2024.

“There isn’t one silver bullet,” he said in a December 2022 interview with The Bee. “We have to come up with a collective of solutions, a multi-pronged approach that will reflect the solution to a very complex problem and that deals with enhanced funding from the Legislature, enhanced funding from the CSU, exploring the possibility of fees. How do we do fees? If we have fees that directly address certain services, does that then free up other monies to address other issues?

“And then, we also need to bring in our invested supporters and partners in the community who directly benefit from Fresno State, as well. We are all in this together.”