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City wants to double tax downtown

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POSTED October 3, 2009 2:16 a.m.
Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
For nearly two years, Manteca business and property owners, city representatives and the Convention and Visitors Bureau have met on a regular basis as the Downtown Steering Committee. The intent of those meetings was to discuss traffic and safety concerns, while exploring ways to enhance the shopping experience in the Downtown business district.

The City Council hired Kristin Lowell, a public finance solutions specialist, to assist in developing a “Plan” or as some may say, “another plan, another consultant” at a cost of $40,000. Council members openly stated that the cost of the consultant was justified because the stakeholders were not capable of reaching a general consensus.

However, what has become apparent to us in these discussions is that the “Plan” the city would really like to see developed is an additional “Taxing Plan”. A plan in which the merchants and property owners tax themselves for what they already pay taxes for — public safety, traffic, roads, trees, sidewalks, and alleyway improvements. It is a way for the city to add money to an already stressed city budget. This would then free up the money that was intended for vital downtown services to be used elsewhere, such as attracting more big box retailers and empty shopping centers to the Highway 120 corridor with infrastructure perks and sales tax giveaways.

The “Taxing Plan” requires a formal vote of the stakeholders and that is why the city is focused on a survey to see if there is any interest. But what we are most concerned with is the way the survey is being handled and lack of information being provided so that one may make an informed decision. We believe that the survey is being administered by the consultant inconsistently.

• A property owner that owns 3 parcels was given only 1 vote. If this PBID were to pass, certainly this property owner would receive 3 property tax bills, why not mail them 3 surveys? The city response via e-mail was “there’s no need for them to receive/return more than one...”

• A business owned by a married couple was given 2 surveys because both owners were listed on the business license, but another business owned equally by two people was given only 1 survey.

• Some surveys, but not all, were handed out or mailed with a list of names of the steering committee members implying that we were endorsing the PBID. Those of us that have signed this letter were not asked and did not give our approval to use our names in this fashion.

• The surveys cannot be tracked, as they are not required to be signed by either the business or property owner, or list an address or be numbered.

• Many property owners who also operate a business from the same address only voted one time, because there was no difference in the heading of the survey noting one for Property Owners and one for Business Owners.

• How much could the tax be? The lowest rate of tax on the survey was $500 per 1,000 square feet of space and the highest amount was $1,200 per 1,000 square feet. For example: 2,000 square foot lot size divided by 1,000 = 2 times $500 = $1,000 extra property tax

• or by the higher rate 2 x $1,200 = $2,400 extra property tax.

What we have for $40,000 is a city hired Sacramento consultant sending out surveys with minimal information that don’t require a signature, an address, a number or are otherwise identifiable. The whole situation has become incredulous and frankly a dog and pony show. This is all for the city’s benefit to convince us to tax ourselves.

It is sad that we are forced to write this letter to set the record straight and alert our downtown colleagues. After gathering the information provided by participating on the committee, we want you to be aware that we do not support the tax plan or the formation of a PBID. We urge anyone that has questions regarding this proposal to contact any one of us and please attend the next meeting. Become fully informed.
Patrick Farrell, Betty Farrell, Brenda Franklin, Bea Bowlsby, Carlon Perry, Clif Givens, Diane Givens, Dean Stoker, Ricardo Cuevas, DDS, Renee Kee, Sam Guedoir, Alyce Machado Luis, Robyn Bartley, Dana Solomon, Shawn Nussbaumer
Manteca
Sept. 25, 2009
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