Backers of a tax initiative aimed at invigorating and beautifying city parks officially launched their campaign Wednesday at a picnic and rally in central Fresno.
The proposed sales tax increase of 0.375 cents per dollar would raise about $37.5 million annually for city parks, advocates said. The money would be used on operations and maintenance of existing parks, the construction of new parks, capital improvement projects, increased ranger patrols as well as litter removal from local freeways and primary streets.
A coalition of community leaders and nonprofit organizations called Fresno for Parks has spent months studying the issue. Former Fresno County Schools Superintendent Larry Powell is the group's primary spokesman. In 2016 and '17, the Central Valley Community Foundation commissioned two polls by The Trust for Public Land that showed support of more than 70 percent of likely Fresno voters for the proposal.
The Trust for Public Land is the same group that compiles an annual "Parkscore" ranking of America's 100 largest cities based on public parks, playgrounds, dog parks, recreation facilities and senior centers. Fresno ranked 90th in 2017, an increase from previous years in which the city came in dead last.
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Advocates plan to spend the next two months gathering signatures in the hope of placing the initiative on the November ballot. It could also get there via a five-vote "super majority" of the City Council.
Fresno's current sales tax is 7.975 percent.