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A new tax for police & fire?
Staff floats idea of CFDs helping fund public safety
public safety
Public safety is among the Manteca City Councils top goals. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

Improving public safety in Manteca is expected to be a three-step process.

First, fully staff the Union Road fire station to make sure it is manned by three firefighters 24/7 and restore police and fire staffing to pre-recession levels.

Second, build a new police headquarters and the city’s fifth fire station.

Third, figure away to make sure as Manteca grows there is funding to add additional law enforcement and fire personnel.

Meeting the second and third steps might require an additional tax on new growth in the form of community facilities districts.

Public safety ranked among the highest goals of the Manteca City Council during last week’s goal setting meeting. The gathering is a precursor to staff preparing for the  municipal spending plan for the next fiscal year starting July 1. The meeting also was used to establish goals for Manteca  over the next five years.

Rising sales tax and property tax making up for drops incurred during  the mortgage crisis may take care of the first step.  Rebounding city revenues also may pick up the tab of seven police and fire positions covered through the Public Safety Endowment Fund. They will have to be integrated into the general fund within five years. That’s when they will deplete the account set up using development fees collected specifically for the purpose of public safety.

Mayor Willie Weatherford noted that the police department has been in need of more space for years. As such it is  topping the council’s list of public facilities needs. Right up there is the building and opening of the fifth fire station  on land the city already owns at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue in South Manteca.

But there’s a string attached to building the fifth station  — at least from Councilman Steve DeBrum’s perspective.

“We need to make sure we can open it and be able to fund the staff needed to man the engine,” DeBrum said.

The bulk of the money to build the fire station will come from fees collected on new growth for fire facilities. The new police station will be a bit more complicated. The public facilities fee assigns a percentage of the cost for new amenities to growth. That’s because under state law growth can’t pay for more than  its fair share. Existing residents have to pay their fair share as well.

Fire stations tend to go in areas serving new growth. The police station, though, serves the entire community. And while the council could theoretically use money collected on growth for other public facilities to build a new police station, they would have to found a way to backfill money they used to make sure other projects that the city needs get  built as well.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin noted community facilities districts could be considered as a way to generate additional revenue for public safety staffing and perhaps a police station and future fire stations.

Councilman Vince Hernandez was cool to the concept saying he views it as double taxation.

McLaughlin noted most cities that use the CFD fees for that purpose usually asses them  against commercial projects and not residential neighborhoods.