A committee led by construction company owner Richard Spencer is collecting signatures to put a countywide sales tax increase measure before voters to pay for academic and facility improvements in Fresno State, including in an aging Bulldog stadium.
“We think in a few weeks we’ll have enough signatures,” said Tim Orman, former chief of staff to Fresno mayors Jerry Dyer and Lee Brand and a longtime political consultant who was hired to lead the effort. Orman said the petition campaign has already garnered around 15,000 signatures – more than half of the 25,000 needed to get the measure in the November general election ballot. Paid signature collectors in front of big box stores are part of the effort.
The tax increase would increase the county’s sales and use tax by 0.2%. It would last 20 years and generate an estimated annual average of $36 million.
Its reported use would be to expand nursing, agriculture, criminology, and engineering/STEM programs at the university, provide scholarships to local and low-income students, and funds to repair and upgrade infrastructure. of campus, including a Bulldog stadium that is in dire need of renovation.
At least two-thirds of the tax funds must be spent on university programs and facilities and no more than one-third on women’s and men’s athletics facilities.
“We have identified severe nursing shortages in the region,” Orman said. “We have lost nurses to COVID-19. They just don’t have the capacity there, so one of the main things he would do would be to expand the nursing program.
The tax would apply to the gross receipts of all retailer sales or all tangible personal property sold at retail in the county, and the selling price of tangible personal property purchased from any retailer for storage, use or all other consumption in the county of this property. In Reedley, the tax would be 0.025%.
The measure would also establish a five-member Oversight Committee appointed by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, which would monitor the use of tax funds to ensure they are used in accordance with the measure, oversee the issuance of obligations and would provide an annual audit report.
Calendar for the November ballot
The group behind the tax push is called the Fresno State Improvement Zone Committee. Spencer, a top backer to school bond campaigns in the past, is listed as the committee’s senior director, according to county documents. Spencer owns Harris Construction and Spencer Enterprises, among other business interests.
The committee was certified to begin collecting signatures on June 10.
Supporters of any measure or initiative have 180 days to collect signatures, but for the Fresno County tax to make the November ballot, there are about six weeks left to collect more than 25,000 verified signatures – 10% of the vote count expressed during the last governorship. election.
A resolution must also be tabled 88 days before the election.
“Because the resolution is due to me by August 12, they need to get certification of those signatures from the County Board of Supervisors by August 12, and they have a meeting on July 12 and August 9,” Fresno said county clerk/registrar of voters James Kus.
If the tax makes the November vote, it would take 50% plus one to pass, Kus said.
Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval was unavailable for comment, but said upgrading Bulldog Stadium and athletics facilities was a priority and formed a task force to develop a plan. plan to maintain the success of competitive athletics.
This plan should focus on four areas, with infrastructure at the top of the list. The task force should also explore revenue generation, the student-athlete experience, and marketing of the Fresno State brand.
“We’ve had really incredible success in the past,” Jiménez-Sandoval told The Bee in November. “But within that, I also started to see a pattern where we get rich at one point and then the next seasons, we’re not there. We’re not at that level. We We cannot maintain a level of excellence throughout. We maintain a brand name, but the level of excellence has not been a constant throughout.
“With that in mind, I really want to provide an appropriate, systematic and educated approach to how we move forward together in a sustained way that provides athleticism with the stability it needs to maintain its momentum, not just in the football, but also in other sports. We were a powerhouse in basketball. What do we do with that? What do we do with baseball? We were national baseball champions. What do we do? of our women’s sports? What do we do with the Fresno State brand name?”