Measure E is back. Here’s an early preview of the measure to boost Fresno St. athletics, academics.

Measure E came up short in delivering hundreds of millions for Fresno State last year. A Thursday night confab hosted by its top backer, Richard Spencer, aimed to chart the course for a 2024 attempt.

More than 30 people – including representatives from Fresno State, local elected officials and business owners – met for the first time to discuss the renewed effort to pass Measure E, a sales tax initiative that would benefit academic and athletics projects at Fresno State. 

Richard Spencer, the owner of Harris Construction, hosted the roundtable meeting on Thursday at his offices, the first of many in an effort to gain enough support to pass the measure next year. 


The backstory: Last November, Fresno County voters opted against Measure E by a 47.14-52.86 vote. Since it was initiated through a voter signature drive, it needed a simple majority vote to be enacted. 

  • The measure was a 0.2 percent sales tax county-wide for a 20-year term, which was projected to bring in $36 million annually for a total of $720 million.
  • Two-thirds of the funding would have gone toward academic facility improvements, programs and scholarships, while the remaining third would be allowed to be used for athletics projects – namely renovating the aging Valley Children’s Stadium. 
  • Spencer was the sole financial backer of last year’s measure, spending around $1.5 million of his own money. 

The big picture: Spencer is organizing a starkly different campaign than last year’s iteration. With nearly three dozen local political players in attendance, the builder boasted tripling the size of similar pow-wows from 2022.

  • Spencer and the other backers are hoping to grow the group to possibly over 100 people in the following months and have strong financial support from the community to finance the campaign. 
  • Among the attendees Thursday were Fresno State President Saul Jimenez-Sandoval, Vice President Deborah Adishian-Astone, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Development Tim Collins, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, Fresno County Supervisor Sal Quintero, and Asm. Jim Patterson (R–Fresno). 
  • A representative from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo also attended since the San Luis Obispo community could possibly consider a similar measure. 
  • Spencer called last year’s effort “nebulous,” enforcing the need for the campaign to be much more precise in its messaging. 

Go deeper: The new iteration of Measure E is 0.25 percent over a 25-year term, which is projected to raise $56.1 million annually and $1.403 billion in total. 

  • The proposed sales tax was raised by 0.05 percent because state law requires such tax measures to be in multiples of an eighth.  
  • Fresno State submitted a list of projects to the group that it would like to see completed, totaling $900 million. The proposals are not set in stone as they are simply possible projects that could be completed on campus. 
  • Such projects that the university has targeted include:
    • $160 million for modernizing Valley Children’s Stadium
    • $80 million for deferred maintenance
    • $45 million for a 1,200-seat concert hall
    • $60 million for expanding the Lyles College of Engineering
    • $60 million for a new School of Nursing building
    • $60 million for affordable student housing
    • $100 million for endowments
    • $47 million for modernizing the Duncan Athletic Center
  • Spencer pressed the gathered locals to submit their own ideas to aid Fresno State through the measure.

State of play: This second, more-focused attempt at passing Measure E comes as Fresno State’s athletics future hangs in the balance. During the confab, Jimenez-Sandoval confirmed the rumors that the Big 12 is interested in Fresno State, saying that the major conference would like to add a strong West Coast brand to its ranks. 

  • While Jimenez-Sandoval is unable to legally endorse Measure E, the university is already more involved in the effort given the list of potential projects that it compiled and its presence at Thursday’s meeting. 

What we’re watching: Measure E backers plan to have the final draft of the initiative ready by April 24 and will submit the required documents to the county by May 2, which would lead to the signature-gathering phase starting on May 30. 

  • The group needs 21,909 signatures to qualify for the ballot and is planning on collecting 36,000 signatures. 
  • If all goes according to plan, Measure E would be placed on the March 2024 ballot. 

What they’re saying: Tim Orman, Measure E’s campaign manager, spoke to The Sun after the meeting about the differences in this year’s renewed effort. 

  • “Last year was a very compressed time frame to be able to get it on the ballot for November, so we didn’t have the opportunity to get as much community involvement as we should have,” Orman. “This year we’ve got the luxury of more time, so we’ve expanded it to a much wider group and want to make this what it is – it’s a community effort because the entire community benefits from Fresno State.” 
  • Fresno State’s visible involvement with Measure E figures to play a much more important role than last year’s effort. 
  • “It’s extremely important because one of the first questions people asked me last year was where is Fresno State on this, are they involved,” Orman said. “It was yeah they were, but people couldn’t see it so it was hard to explain it to them.” 

Fresno State’s preliminary wish-list:

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