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Lathrop gearing up for extra penny in sales tax

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POSTED January 3, 2013 12:22 a.m.

LATHROP – The one-cent sales-tax increase passed by Lathrop voters won’t take effect until April 1.

But that doesn’t mean that city staffers and elected officials aren’t taking the necessary steps to make sure that everything is ready when spring finally rolls around and the meter starts running.

When the Lathrop City Council meets next week they’ll consider adopting an ordinance that will be the first formal step in creating the required citizen’s oversight committee tasked with making sure that the Measure C funds that the city spends are used in accordance with what voters approved.

The positions for the five-member panel will be noticed, and the council will likely take applications for 30-days before reviewing them and making their decisions well in advance of April 1.

According to Acting Finance Director Cari James, Lathrop won’t receive its first quarterly payment until July, and will receive its first true-up from the State for monies collected in September.

How much will be contained in those checks, however, has likely already been calculated.

James said that the city has retained the services of a sales-tax consultant that has helped determine how much money the tax will generate as it gets off the ground, and that money is already being figured into the 2013/2014 annual budget.

It will be reevaluated, she said, at mid-year and the numbers will be readjusted accordingly.

As a stipulation that voters agreed on, the monies collected will be listed in the budget as a separate line-item and all expenditures will have to be presented to the oversight committee. They will, in turn, tell the council whether the money spent was used in accordance with the framework of Measure C.

And because 40 percent of the money collected will go to the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District, they will also be required to ensure transparency as well. Its books are already open as part of a loan agreement from the City of Lathrop. It is a loan that the district will have to pay back from money collected independent of Measure C.

City Manager Steve Salvatore said that staff looked at other cities in the area that have approved sales-tax increases to gauge the best way to move forward in the early stages.

He expected that the application period would likely run through the month of February. The council would make their decisions in early March. The council only meets once in January and once in February.

Come April 1 Lathrop will have the highest sales-tax rate of any city in San Joaquin County at 9 percent – topping Stockton’s 8.25 percent that kicked in after California’s quarter-cent tax increase went into effect on January 1. Those filling up with gasoline at Lathrop pumps will only be taxed at 8.75 percent. Those buying diesel will be taxed the full amount.

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