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Forget bonus bucks, make growth pay its way

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POSTED May 14, 2013 1:35 a.m.

Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

There is an old proverb which best describes the voluntary $1.8M contribution to the city, it goes, “All that glitters is not gold.” The offering of $1.8M for a Development Agreement (DA) for 356 new homes illustrates the symbiotic scenario and relationship between developers and our city leaders that has played out for decades on the premise that it encourages new development, jobs, and benefits the city. I have yet however to find anyone at city hall to explain how this scenario has finally provided the necessary funds to pay for lacking community amenities, provide timely maintenance to the existing community, and offset the fiscal impacts of new development.

Development agreements were intended to benefit the city, but over time developers have been allowed to manipulate the timing of development costs and improvements to safeguard their profit margin, and garner resources from the City to make their project “pencil out.” The current proposal will provide some relief today from the city’s financial problems, but that will soon fade away as the subject residential development ages. While the “donation” is touted as a timely lifesaver, and administrative staff scramble to find how best to cut the $1.8 million pie, the city’s long time money problem and growing cultural amenities, service levels, and fiscal deficits remain loaming. Frankly, these “donations” are merely a token (a spin, if you will) to garner support from the Council for their respect projects.

The truth is that each new development places a greater burden of wear on the existing aging community (streets, public safety, library, traffic signals, water and sewer mains, etc.). A good example is the increased traffic in town, which is not from the existing community. The city’s overall fiscal problem worsens because insufficient revenue is generated from the new development and existing community revenues are insufficient to pay for maintenance of the aging infrastructure, each new development dilutes the city’s revenue stream and resources. The financial deficit deepens each time the city council defers improvements or does not collect or impose the necessary fees required to offset the physical and fiscal impacts on the community.

City hall has acknowledged for decades that development does not generate sufficient municipal revenue to offset the cost of the public services required by the development, yet the same process of management continues to be used. When asked what is the per dwelling cost of providing public services and what is the municipal revenue generated by a home, the city indicated they do not have that information. Perhaps, that is the reason why Manteca has fallen short for decades in providing for community needs in a timely manner. Conversely, I bet the developer has determined the cost of developing each home, right down to each stud and nail.

There is a solution, but it will not fare well with the developers or city hall. City hall needs to prepare an analysis to determine the profitability and stability of providing public services: Profitability: the city’s ability to earn income and sustain growth in both the short- and long-term; Stability: the city’s ability to remain in business in the long run. Yes, the city needs to operate as a profitable and sustainable business, no different than the business objectives of the developer. And, adjust impact fees to include the provision of community amenities and the projected maintenance of the aging infrastructure.

The truth is the DA process in its present form and management no longer serves the city’s or residents’ best interest.

Benjamin Cantu
May 10, 2013

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