Sales tax measure for Fresno veterans floated; expected to raise close to $10 million per year

Miguel Arias inspects a 1930s circuit breaker box at the Fresno Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Photo by Frank Lopez

A trio of Fresno City Council members announced plans to introduce a sales tax initiative to support Central Valley veterans.

Fresno Council Speaker Nelson Esparza, along with Council Members Miguel Arias and Luis Chavez, held a press conference at the Fresno Veterans Memorial Auditorium in downtown Fresno on Wednesday afternoon to announce a ballot measure for city ​​veterans and veterans facilities.

The Fresno Veterans Support Vote initiative, or Measure V, aims to improve services for veterans and fund improvements to the Fresno Memorial Auditorium and other facilities for veterans. It was due to be presented to the Fresno City Council on Thursday and will be subject to input from leaders and local veterans’ organizations, council members said.

The objective is to include measure V in the November election.

Measure V is expected to generate about $9.8 million a year through an 1/8th-cent increase for city residents.

Esparza said there are nearly 40,000 veterans living in Fresno County, with more than 19,300 residing in the city of Fresno.

“Many veterans, especially homeless veterans who have been relegated to our streets, are struggling to find their way back to productive lives,” Esparza said. “These men and women sacrificed themselves for us. It is time to develop solutions to ensure they have the services and resources to live peaceful and prosperous lives as civilians.

Arias said as a District 3 representative, he received many inquiries about the condition of the 40,000-square-foot Fresno Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, which was built in 1935.

The most recent appraisal, conducted about five years ago, puts the building’s modernization costs at more than $11 million.

Arias said the Veterans of Foreign Wars buildings on Parkway Drive in Fresno and the one on Blythe Avenue will also need renovations.

Arias estimates the cost of redoing the electrical work in the auditorium alone to be around $5 million. Of its four floors, only one floor is usable.

It also needs a modern HVAC system. Arias pointed out that the Veteran’s Library air vents are barely a few feet above anyone’s head.

There will also be work to be done on the floor, stage, auditorium and exterior facade.

“Today is a time for us to move from celebrating our veterans in parades and memorials to restoring and rebuilding our facilities and adding support services that our veterans fighters deserve,” Arias said.

Regarding the use of funds from Measure P, a tax to improve parks, trails and facilities in Fresno, Arias said that would put the council in a bind to decide whether to use the money to serve. children with after-school programs or veterans with housing assistance. services.

“We shouldn’t have to make this choice every year,” Arias said.

Support services for veterans at the auditorium would include psychological and addictions counseling and homeless resettlement — eliminating the need for veterans to travel from Fresno to the Clovis Veterans Memorial District to receive services, said Arias said.

The bill will be introduced at the Fresno City Council meeting on Thursday, Chavez said, to give other council members a chance to weigh in, as well as receive input from local veterans.

“We want to include our veterans in this conversation,” Chavez said. “Ultimately what we’re looking at with this initiative is that they have oversight, but more importantly feedback on what kind of programs and services they would like to see.”

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