Retired Sanger Unified School District Superintendent Mark Johnson voices his support for Measure E during a press conference at Fresno State on Aug. 16. Photo by Ben Hensley
Written by Ben Hensley
The ballot initiative aimed at improving Fresno State academic and athletic programs was introduced publicly by supporters at a press conference Tuesday.
Fresno State alums, including retired Sanger Unified School District Superintendent Marc Johnson, expanded on the importance of the measure that aims to improve facilities, both athletic and academic, on the Fresno State campus.
“If it wasn’t for this college and the opportunity that it gave me, I would never be able to be standing here today in front of you,” said Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino. “This college changed my life.”
The measure, a sales tax increase of 0.2%, is structured in the same format as previously approved Measure C and Measure Z, both also geared toward improving infrastructure.
“I graduated from Fresno State University as an international student,” said Dora Westerlund, CEO of the Fresno Area Hispanic Foundation. “Fresno State gave me all the necessary tools and resources for me to be able to thrive in my community, and then give back to the community.”
The measure commits 2/3 of total funds raised to improving academic infrastructure, ranging from building repair and construction, to supporting low-income student scholarships. The measure will also ease the burden on current students by preventing the increase of student fees, according to supporters.
The measure will be equipped with built-in oversight, similar to that of Measure C, which has a citizen’s oversight committee to ensure funds are spent appropriately and in accordance with the measure, they said.
“My family is anchored here; two-thirds of my children graduated from this institution,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen firsthand the impact that Fresno State has for our children — especially the children from our rural areas.”
With the initiative placed on the Nov. 8 ballot, several other tax initiatives are also seeking approval. Johnson asked voters to consider where they can receive the best return on investment of taxpayer dollars, citing the 80% of Fresno State graduates who remain local and will continue to re-stimulate the economy by remaining local.
This long-term solution gives Fresno State the opportunity to maintain facilities that are in need of repair and maintenance for which state funding is limited when compared to local K-12 schools and California community colleges, supporters say.
“This measure is a creative way to overcome that deficit,” Johnson said. “This measure is the right way to approach and support our university.”