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Manteca safety: Here’s 5,000 or so pennies a year for your thoughts

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POSTED April 10, 2013 11:09 p.m.

Pennies are rather worthless things when they standalone.

They collect like dust bunnies in cars, desks, and jars. Many times we don’t even take pennies when getting change for a purchase. Instead we nonchalantly toss them into a container on the counter for someone else to use to complete a transaction.

Many of us don’t believe it is worth the bother to wrap them in 50 cent rolls and take them to the bank. So we just toss them aside.

The United States Treasurer indicates there were 1.65 trillion pennies in circulation in 2009. The next highest number for coins was 379 million quarters. Since quarters have a real perceived value we don’t let them accumulate idly for years. We use them.

It is against that backdrop that some view a half cent jump in sales tax as inconsequential.

Manteca currently collects $4.2 million a year in Measure M public safety tax. It is enough to pay for 21 police officers and firefighters. (The city currently funds 23 positions - 11 police officers and 12 firefighters out of the Measure M account using an accumulated reserve to cover the difference.)

Of that $4.2 million, at least a conservative $720,000 comes from the pockets of the good people who shop only in Manteca at the Bass Pro Shops. That money would never factor into the usual “bleed” in sales tax between neighboring communities.

That means $3.5 million is collected each year from a half cent transaction on every taxable dollar.

That averages to $50 per Manteca resident. That translates into $200 for a family of four from Manteca residents. Obviously some people pay more, others pay less.

Was the $50 I was taxed last year worth not living in a city with 11 less police officers and 12 less firefighters to serve and protect my neighbors, my family, and myself? Yes, it was worth it.

Is another $50 a year worth having an additional 12 police officers and 11 firefighters? Good question.

Crime is often perception. If it happens to you, the world’s gone to hell. If it happens in your community, the world’s out of control. If it happens in Oakland, oh well.

By a number of yardsticks used by various websites that rate communities in terms of livability for folks buying homes, Manteca has crime rates that are below average for cities of similar size in California. Your reality, though, may say something different.

The police – due to increased calls and not enough personnel to cover things as they did 10 years ago – want us to use online reporting. Some of us aren’t too happy when we can’t get a police officer face-to-face to take a crime report within minutes after we call.

It is akin to full service versus self-check lines at stores. The results are still, the same but the self-serve tends to be quicker at most times. Still, for the same reason most of us chose full service – or what passes as it today – is the same as to why we want to see a police officer when we are victims of relatively minor crime.

Then there is the question of what we don’t do that increases the demand for police. While it may gall you to have to lock your car, keep your garage door down most of the time, or take various passive steps to secure your home, a good chunk of crime is the direct result of us making it easy for criminals who are basically lazy or don’t have skill sets such as the ability to hot wire cars. More than one out of every five cars stolen in Manteca is because someone kept the engine running while it was unattended or left the keys in the ignition.

Then there is the issue of the catch-and-release game police are forced to play. It is the result of courts deciding those incarcerated have to be assured of minimum space and health care as opposed to those who aren’t convicted of burglary, armed robbery, drive-by shootings, murder, rape, and an assortment of other anti-civilized behavior.

As for the money, if you’re on the  edge financially you’re on the edge. Then there are folks like me who are paying $900 less a year in property taxes than I was five years ago. And even with stagnant pay due to the Great Recession, they still have more disposal income than before. It may not be much from reduced property taxes but it is also going somewhere else right now whether it is savings or other expenses.

Any move to have a ballot measure to increase the Measure M sales tax is going to have to come from the community.  It’s doubtful that anyone on the council is going to make such a bold move even if is simply to give people an option to decide what they want to pay for when it come to police and fire protection.

Should it get on the ballot, it would leave us all with the $50 question: Is it worth it?

It’s a question we should keep in mind the next time we bellyache about crime or complain about police or fire response times.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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