Update, 7/08/19, 3:15 p.m.:

A Fresno County Superior Court judge delayed a tentative ruling expected today on Measure P.

Judge Kimberly Gaab pushed back a decision on whether the Fresno sales tax for parks was approved by voters with 53% of the vote. The city contends it needed two-thirds to pass. The decision will be continued until Aug. 6. The court did not reveal why the decision was delayed.

Attorneys supporting Measure P submitted information to the judge Monday morning about a San Francisco court ruling Friday that dealt with a similar tax measure. A judge there ruled a measure placed on the ballot by citizen signature to raise taxes for a specific purpose (similar to Measure P) only needed majority support to go into effect.

Original story:

A decision on whether the 2018 city of Fresno parks tax passed could be coming soon.

The measure received 53% voter support. The question is, did the measure need a majority or two-thirds approval to pass?

Photo of GV Wire's David Taub

David Taub

Politics 101

A tentative ruling from Judge Kimberly Gaab is expected this week.

Measure P would raise sales taxes in the city three-eighths of a cent to fund parks, trails and other programs. Both supporters and opponents in the November 2018 election campaigned as if two-thirds was needed.

But the 2017 Upland decision and parallel cases in San Francisco have made that two-thirds threshold questionable. A San Francisco judge on Friday upheld two similar tax measures in San Francisco, meaning they can be considered passed with a majority vote.

The Upland case challenged thresholds applied to tax measures going to a specific purpose (in Measure P’s case, parks), and like Measure P, placed on the ballot through the initiative process.

That is essentially what the judge in the San Francisco case ruled.

The state Supreme Court has decided that rules applicable to measures placed by a government entity do not apply to citizen-led measures. Upland answered the specific question of when such a measure can be placed on a ballot.

The Fresno Case

However, the state’s high court did not answer the specific question of majority vs. two-thirds. Both sides in the Measure P case presented their arguments on paper, and the involved attorneys expect Gaab to rule soon.

The Fresno case pits Fresno Building Healthy Communities, wanting Measure P to pass, against the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

To summarize dozens of pages in arguments in one paragraph: The Jarvis group says the state Constitution (through Propositions 13 and 218) mandate the two-thirds requirement. BHC says Upland changed that.

The city of Fresno is technically the plaintiff in the case. The city filed court action last February to get legal clarification from the courts on the majority vs. two-thirds issue. It says it is staying neutral in the BHC-HJTA square-off.

Even with the San Francisco ruling, the case is expected to go to the state Supreme Court for a definitive ruling. That could be months, if not years, away.

Raises for SCCCD presidents

Paul Parnell

At last week’s State Center Community College District meeting, trustees approved raises for most in the district, including the top chiefs.

Chancellor Paul Parnell received a 6% raise, now earning a base annual salary of $302,220. His new contract lasts four years. He also will receive $800 a month in a vehicle allowance and $800 expense allowance. Those figures are unchanged.

Parnell also received a raise last year. At the time, a second raise was contingent on a satisfactory job review, which he received.

Additionally, four campus presidents — Carole Goldsmith (Fresno City College), Lori Bennett (Clovis Community College), Jerry Buckley (Reedley College), and Angel Reyna (Madera Community College Center) — will see pay bumps. Buckley and Reyna started their posts in the last few months.

Goldsmith received a 4.5% raise to a $233,505 base salary; Bennett received a 4.5% raise to $222,742 base salary. Buckley and Reyna will be paid $215,000 apiece, or about a 1% bump.

Confidential employees and management also received a 2.38% pay raise.

The only no vote on the raises came from Annalisa Perea. She opposed Parnell’s increase.

County Strikes Deal to Lease Rowell Building for DA

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors will vote on a deal to lease the Rowell Building downtown to provide 70,000 square feet for the district attorney’s office to operate.

“As the DA’s Office has grown over the last decade, we have had to lease office-space in at least 5 different locations to house all of our employees,” deputy district attorney Steve Wright told GV Wire via email.

The 20-year lease will be structured that the first 10 years will be for $17.3 million. In the 10th year, the county has the option to purchase the building for $18 million. The property is owned by River Park Properties II, part of Lance-Kashian & Company.

The monthly rent will be $137,465 for the first five years. The rent gradually increases every five years, with the last quarter of the lease (years 16-20) worth $183,991 a month.

“Because our attorneys appear in court on a daily basis, they need to be housed in a location downtown near the Courthouse.  Unfortunately, there are not many locations downtown that are big enough to house the DA’s Office,” Wright said. “By bringing the majority of our staff all under one roof, we will be able to consolidate spaces, job duties, and related costs, which will result in a much more efficient operation.”

The deal has been on-again, off-again for the last few years. If approved, the DA could move in by March 2020.

The county would also spend $5.4 million in improvements to the property at 2100 Tulare Street.

Night to Remember

The nonprofit group Honor Our Military Veterans is holding a July 18 gala to do exactly what the name implies, honoring military veterans.

“A Night to Remember” will honor five World War II veterans. The event features music from Valerie Salcedo, The Gilly Girls, along with violinist Patrick Contreras.

The evening takes place at the New Covenant Church (1744 E. Nees Ave.) starting at 6. Tickets are $30 (with discounts for children and veterans) and can be purchased here.

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