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Lathrop voters easily pass one-cent sales tax

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POSTED November 7, 2012 2:25 a.m.

LATHROP – Voters proved Tuesday night that when it comes to public safety they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Lathrop’s Measure C – the one-cent sales tax increase that could generate up to $2 million annually – was passing with 75.77 percent of the vote as of midnight. Being only a general tax the measure only needs a simple majority to be enacted.    

While the money isn’t officially earmarked for any specific cause, something that would have forced the city to seek a two-thirds plus one majority, the measure is expected to help fund local public safety – namely the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District which had taken a major financial hit in the wake of the housing crisis.

Representatives from the Lathrop-Manteca Firefighters Association walked door to door to drum-up support for the measure, and hosted a community event over the weekend where they offered free hot dogs to those who stopped in to talk about the benefits it will bring the community.

Once formally in place, Lathrop will have the highest sales tax rate of any city in San Joaquin County – 8.75 percent – and will be on par with communities like Dublin and Redondo Beach.

But the investment that the Lathrop City Council made in researching whether the public would support such a measure and covering the cost of putting it on the ballot will be covered within the first month of receipts received.

The city has faced some tough financial times in recent years with the combination of the housing crisis – decreasing home values cutting the city’s share of property tax revenue – and failed developments forcing the council to cut back on staffing to minimal, bare-bones levels.

Prior to approving the budget earlier this year the council voted to lay off one full-time employee and eliminate another part-time position. They also opted to cut a police detective position and shuffle in-house in other departments to make sure that the $373,000 shortfall would be covered and wouldn’t come out of the general fund reserve.

A citizens oversight committee will be responsible with determining how to distribute the funds once they come in – with programs for both youth and seniors as possible recipients as well as public safety and local infrastructure upkeep and maintenance.

Manteca passed a similar measure – Measure M – several years ago, but because it was specifically targeted for funding police and fire positions it required a two-thirds plus one majority. A citizens oversight committee was also formed in that case to make sure that the money was being used in accordance with the voters’ wishes.

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