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Travel Plaza owner: Tax hurting business

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POSTED July 19, 2013 1:26 a.m.

LATHROP – Dalwinder Dhoot thinks that the Lathrop City Council is trying to bankrupt him.

Well, not the council directly. He doesn’t have a problem with the five elected members personally, or believes that any of them are directly out to hurt his business. But the owner of Joe’s Travel Plaza and the Holiday Inn Express said that if things continue the way they’re going now, the one-cent sales tax increase that was overwhelmingly supported by voters in November will ruin his Lathrop businesses.

And he wants relief.

On Monday night Dhoot told the council, during the public comment portion of the meeting, that the tax increase has and will continue to affect the number of truckers that stop in to fill-up with diesel.

Unlike other local gas stations that pay taxes, Dhoot said that his business, which relies heavily on truck drivers that purchase diesel fuel, needs to stay competitive on a regional and even statewide level – keeping prices on-par with nearby travel stops like Patterson and Lodi and watching trends further south in the San Joaquin Valley and up above Sacramento.

He headed off any questions about his accounting by providing a packet of information to every council member and city staffer that outlined his cost, operating expenses and profit margins.

 That one-cent, he said, will make the difference between turning a profit and slipping into the red. Between the hotel and the truck stop, Dhoot said he employs 60 people.

“We need to be able to stay competitive with other diesel stores,” he said. “Before we would make a half-percent profit. That’ll go away.”

According to Dhoot, he pays between $600,000 and $700,000 in sales tax every year, and the City of Lathrop sees a cut of roughly $30,000 of that every single month. Keeping that money flowing, he said, is beneficial to not only his business, but the city as well.

The only problem with his argument is that the majority of Lathrop residents don’t see a problem with paying the extra penny out of every dollar that they spend at the pump or elsewhere.

A preliminary study, paid for by the City of Lathrop before they opted to put the sales-tax increase before the voters in November, showed that public support for the measure was exorbitantly high. It passed with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Part of the reason that public support remains high is because the tax increase, which is supposed to generate an extra $2 million annually, is going to pay for additional police and fire protection as well as city services. The Lathrop-Manteca Fire District is getting 40 percent of all monies that come in – money that will be spent to fund nine firefighter positions when a federal grant dries up – and Lathrop Police Services will refund critical positions that were slashed when the city budget was stripped.

The City of Lathrop also approved the hiring of two parks and recreation department staffers that will be tasked with overseeing the programs at the new Generations Center.

An independent five-member oversight committee has to approve all expenditures from the Measure C account.

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