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Measure C committee to discuss fire & cops budget

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POSTED June 22, 2014 11:08 p.m.

LATHROP – When Lathrop’s Measure C oversight committee meets on Wednesday it’ll be the first time that the group will able to lay out a budget based on numbers and not just projections.

Just where is that money going to go?

To pay for police officers and firefighters – keeping with the promise that city officials made to the public to keep public safety the forefront of a $2 million annual sales tax account that received more than 70 percent of the vote when it went before them on a ballot in November of 2012.

The handshake agreement that the City of Lathrop made with the Lathrop Manteca Fire District will prove to be critical in the next budget cycle now that a grant that paid the tab for nine positions – six firefighter engineers and three line battalion chiefs – is ending.

Fire Chief Gene Neely has maintained since the passing of Measure C that staffing would the top priority once the SAFER Grant – Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response – stopped paying for the positions that were critical to restoring the operations of the district to full-strength. And in this next budget cycle it will pick up the six firefighters and two-thirds of the three battalion chiefs in order to keep those staffing levels at an appropriate level.

Lathrop Police Services is also using its Measure C money to pay for positions.

Last year the department added a pair of community impact deputies – responsible for curtailing narcotics and gang activity in the city – as well as a supervising sergeant and a school resource officer to restore positions that were slashed when the city was facing massive budget deficits. Those positions will once again be funded out of the City of Lathrop’s portion of its Measure C proceeds. 

Voters overwhelmingly approved a one-cent sales tax increase in November of 2012 to augment existing city services and provide much needed stability to the fire district’s budget, but it took time before the checks actually started rolling in. It wasn’t until Sept. of 2013 that everything ironed out, and by that time the city’s budget for the fiscal year was already three months past.

Now, at the same time that the city prepares to adopt its annual budget, Measure C – which runs as a line-item within it – will be in-sync.

In a handshake agreement between the city and the fire district, 40 percent will go to help supplement the operating budget of the cash-strapped department that was forced to consider browning out rural stations because of fiscal concerns after a property-tax increase measure failed before voters. The remaining 60 percent is earmarked for any one of a number of city services and has already been used to hire two administrators that will enable The Generations Center to become operational when it opens later this month.

But not everybody in the business community is thrilled with the measure.

One local business owner that contacted The Bulletin and asked not to be named said that he’s even more worried now that the extra cent that his customers pay will drive business outside of the community – especially since he caters to freeway travelers that can easily just move on to Tracy or points further down I-5.

The Measure C Oversight committee will meet on Wednesday, June 25 at 6 p.m. at Lathrop City Hall – located at 390 Towne Centre Drive.

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