Fresno Unified taxpayers appear willing to pay more in property taxes if it means safer, better-equipped, and more up-to-date schools and technology.

A survey of 764 district residents likely to vote in the November 2020 election found strong support for $160 million and $240 million bond measure proposals, even though the $240 million proposal would boost property taxes by about $18 per $100,000 of assessed value. A $160 million bond measure would maintain the current tax rate of $188.86 per $100,000 of assessed value.

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The Fresno Unified board of trustees will review the survey results at Wednesday’s board meeting.

School Districts Eye Bond Measures

This is the third Fresno-area school bond measure under consideration for ballots in either March or November of 2020.

Central Unified’s board will consider in October whether to place a $120 million bond measure on a ballot next year, and the Clovis Unified board is mulling a $408 million bond measure. Central’s bond measure could boost property taxes by $60 per $100,000 of assessed value, while Clovis’ could increase the tax rate by $25 per $100,000 of assessment.

It will be up to Fresno Unified trustees to decide whether to put a bond measure on the ballot, how large it will be, and which ballot. Wednesday’s survey results represent an early step in the process.

The new bond measure would be in addition to Measure X, which voters approved in November 2016 and which is expected to provide $225 million for school improvements. That, plus $56 million in authorized state facility funding, will provide about $281 million for Fresno Unified schools, according to a recent Measure X update by Karin Temple, the district’s chief operating officer.

But the district expects to commit all of its Measure X funding by the end of 2021, and Temple’s update identifies a lengthy list of unfunded projects estimated at well over $200 million.

To obtain state facilities money available in the future, districts will need local matching dollars.

Support Strong For Both Proposals

The Fresno Unified survey was conducted Aug. 21-28 in English and Spanish by the California-based research firm FM3 and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4%.

Forty percent of the people surveyed said they would prefer a proposed $240 million bond measure, while 35% said they favor the $160 million proposal. But both proposals received overwhelming support from respondents, well above the 55% approval required for local school bond measures.

For the $160 million proposal, 75% said they were definitely, probably or “leaning” to yes, compared to 72% for the $240 million proposal. The $160 million proposal had a “definite yes” from 56% percent of the survey respondents, compared to 46% for the $240 million proposal.

Most important to voters: Attracting and retaining qualified teachers, according to the survey. However, bond measures pay for capital improvements, not employee salaries and benefits.

The survey respondents also said improving campus security, replacing heating and air conditioning systems, removing asbestos and lead hazards, fixing restrooms and plumbing systems and increasing career technical education opportunities were high priorities.

And support for a bond measure is strong across all trustee districts, ranging from 63% approval in the Sunnyside area to 79% in the Edison area, the latest survey shows.

Survey: Fresno Unified, Schools Are Improving

Overall opinions about local, elementary, middle, and high schools and the district as a whole have continued to improve over the past decades, surveys showed.

Over half of the respondents in the latest survey said their neighborhood elementary schools were excellent or good, compared with 46% in 2016 and 45% in 2010. Forty-five percent of the respondents rated the district as excellent or good, compared to 32% in 2016 and 35% in 2010.

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