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Is Lathrop tax driving away truck business?

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POSTED March 23, 2014 10:02 p.m.

LATHROP – Lathrop business owners want a do-over when it comes to Measure C.

Voters overwhelmingly decided in 2012 that they were willing to part with an extra penny out of every dollar to fund fire services and other crucial city government functions. But now that the money is actually flowing in, a coalition of Lathrop truck drivers and those that offer support services to them are worried that the extra one-cent – which correlates to four-cents out of every gallon of diesel – will drive business elsewhere.

A purchase of 100 gallons of diesel translates into an additional $4 per visit at the pumps.

It has already started to happen if you ask Joe’s Travel Plaza owner Darwinder Dhoot.

The longtime Lathrop businessman – who lives in Pleasanton – said that since the money has started coming out of his tills, he has had to dig into his own pockets to offset the costs since he doesn’t want to pass it on to his customers.

And that’s costing him somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000 every month.

He had to sell the hotel that he built in 2008 at a loss of $3 million – he used the money from the travel stop to keep it afloat during the recession. He doesn’t foresee a future that’s very bright if there isn’t some sort of a break from the taxes that he thinks will force drivers just up the road to save money on their biggest expense.

Fuel.

“If somehow the city council could recommend a half-percent, I think we could survive and a half-percent,” he said.

But while he had extensive support from the Punjabi business community, not everybody in the audience agreed with his assessment of what was essentially a slam dunk vote when it came before the voters on a ballot that was widely-supported both by public figures and community members.

Josh Capper, the President of the Lathrop-Manteca Firefighters Local 4317, reminded the council that 77 percent of voters gave their blessing to the measure when it was on the ballot and noted that the majority of the people that spoken to them prior to his stepping behind the lectern were out-of-town residents that had business interests in Lathrop – noting that they’re people that “live outside of the community and profit from the community.”

He didn’t stop there.

“It’s a shame that some people would place their own wishes ahead of those of the voters and the citizens that so overwhelmingly chose to levy this assessment upon themselves,” Capper said. “They chose to sacrifice a little bit more of their hard-earned money to ensure safety and well-being of this community.”

Capper took a shot at Dhoot’s contention that he had no idea that Measure C was even on the ballot until after it passed by pointing out that signs calling for its approval lined the city from one side to another. It prompted Capper to surmise that those who didn’t know must not have lived in the community to begin with.

In order for the sales tax increase to be revisited, it would be up to the voters to push for it. The cost of a special election would be thousands of dollars – if not more – in printing and administrative costs if it were to be held this summer. An election in the fall would still cost the city money, but not quite as much.

Lathrop city attorney Salvador Navarrete pointed out that the council does not have the power to make any change to Measure C – which, per its language, is overseen by an independent committee that must approve all spending. Any sales tax increase – or any amendment to one – would have to go out before the voters.

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