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A Manteca-Lathrop fire service?
County report contends it should be explored
Lathrop-Manteca firefighters were part of a joint training exercise with the City of Manteca at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley earlier this month. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Lathrop-Manteca Fire District should consider coordinating the delivery of fire service with the City of Manteca.

That is the recommendation made in the extensive examination of San Joaquin County’s 19 rural fire districts as part of a municipal services review conducted by the Local Agency Formation Commission.

Among the reasons the LAFCO report cited to support such a course of action included:

•The Lathrop-Manteca Fire District completely surrounds the City of Manteca.

•About 15 percent or 8,000 acres of the district is within Manteca’s sphere of influence or areas that LAFCO has determined are logical for eventual annotation to the city.

•Since 1990, the district’s service territory has decreased in size by about 5,800 acres due to annexations to the City of Manteca.

•More than 40 percent of the emergencies the engine stationed at the district’s East Lathrop Road station near Austin Road are service calls into the City of Manteca through their automatic aid agreement. That agreement entered into in 1984 has the closest engine dispatched to an incident regardless of boundaries.

•The district has sustained significant losses in property tax and a reduction in staffing and service levels - seven firefighter positions are vacant - had to be made to balance the budget.

The district in the past has explored a joint powers authority with the City of Manteca as well as joining up with the Tracy Rural Fire Distinct and City of Tracy joint powers authority. The uncertainty of the impacts of property tax revenue losses halted further discussions in both cases.

Lathrop-Manteca Fire District experienced one of the largest decreases in property tax revenues among all of the county’s rural fire districts. In 2009. The district received 14 percent less through property taxes than it did in 2008. In 2010, it received 21 percent less than it did in 2009. It is estimated annexations to Manteca cost the district $313,529 annually in 2009 or 6 percent of the budget.

The district now has a $14,576 capital outlay reserve that the report characterized as “insufficient” given the district’s operating budget is $4.7 million.

However, the report anticipates that future growth in the City of Lathrop, specifically the 11,000-home River Islands project, could make the district financially sound given it also collects a special assessment on property.