Fresno · Politics

Fresno City Council places veterans tax measure on November ballot

A sales tax measure to provide services and restore and build facilities for veterans living in Fresno is headed to the November ballot.

The Fresno City Council unanimously approved to place the initiative, dubbed Measure V, on the ballot Thursday. 

If voters approve Measure V, a one-eighth-cent (0.125 percent) sales tax will be implemented to be used for acquisition, maintenance and operations of veterans facilities, as well as related veterans activities and services that the city will provide. 

The tax would expire after 20 years and is projected to generate nearly $20 million annually. 

“At the end of the day I think what this will mean for our veterans is support services in the areas of housing, making sure that veterans are not homelessness, services, mental health, substance abuse, counseling, psychological assistance for our folks that came back with PTSD,” said Councilman Luis Chavez.

The tax replaces the previous effort from the city council to form a veterans district, similar to the Clovis Veterans Memorial District. 

But with the Clovis district boxed into a certain limited legal capacity for services that it can provide – such as facility maintenance – the sales tax would be an all-encompassing measure that would give the city a wide berth of options for supporting veterans.

Measure V would form a Veterans Oversight Commission to audit expenditures and recommend initiatives to fund. 

Tax revenue will be divided between three areas: capital projects, services and an auxiliary fund which can be appropriated each year between categories depending on need and input from the commission and the Fresno City Council.

“This is long overdue,” said Councilman Miguel Arias. “Our veterans deserve nothing but the best. As a city we’ve been unable to provide that, and my hope is the voters would show the support that we know exists based on the polling that our veterans should have services, housing and all the amenities that we can provide them as close to their neighborhoods to their city as possible. And I believe this is a huge step in the right direction for our city and for our veterans who served.” 

Consulting firms LGSC and FM3 Research polled 620 Fresno voters and found that 74 percent supported the Measure initially.

After both supportive and opposition messaging was presented, that number dropped to 64 percent, although 23 percent of voters said they were undecided. 

To pass, Measure V would need to pass the two-thirds threshold in support. 

“I generally do not support tax increases because I think we frankly are way overtaxed as a society, but there’s clearly a need for veterans. I’m proud that this council put up the memorial outside City Hall. I think that’s something we’re all very proud of,” said Councilman Garry Bredefeld. 

“And this is something we’re also going to be very proud of as we continue to support veterans. It’s my hope that the community will definitively support this. I think if they fully understand what this is, and Measure V is for veterans, and how this money is going to be used, I think they will fully support it and we will get the two-thirds vote.”

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.