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City simply shifts taxes to fees & hurts affordable housing goal

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POSTED April 7, 2009 4:28 a.m.
Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

I recently read the Bulletin article about how City of Manteca staff took over another park and landscaping district, and plans homeowner fee increases to cover full city landscaping services costs. The arrangement was made to “...save Manteca millions of (tax) dollars....” by shifting park landscaping costs from general taxes to homeowner landscaping assessment fees.

 Nothing is saved. Costs are moved from the light of questioning for tax savings, re-labeled as an “enterprise account” and pushed on new residents in ever-escalating fee amounts. Couldn’t the city have just as easily allowed the homebuilding project to continue in these tough economic times without this special consideration?

While possibly slowing the climb of general budget taxes, this arrangement endlessly ratchets up Manteca home ownership costs as the city cheers itself and avoids the difficult job of managing costs downward to reduce park and landscaping budget overruns. How does city cost-shifting and re-naming align with the stated goal of making Manteca homes more affordable?

 Sure this is the new city policy - implemented for charging all the market will bear while controlling the supply. We’ve a sweet arrangement - just take over private contracts for in-house performance, and remove them from tax costs as a savings without further need for detailed analysis. I wonder how this policy affects our area businesses - the private, competitive service contractors and vendors we need to create jobs, maintain service levels and reduce total costs.

By shifting general budget costs to accounts subsidized by mandatory fees, our city almost seems as though it’s attempting to make costs appear well managed, without need for detailed evaluation or significant reduction, since we can raise fees to recover full costs as the law allows. My hope is that city government’s vision will soon include homeowners as its most important customer base.

 Guy Donovan
Manteca
April 6, 2009
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