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Cutting sales tax sharing deals
Manteca candidates weigh in on strategy to secure specific retail
Answering questions at Wednesday’s candidates’ forum were Manteca mayor candidates, from left, Ben Cantu, Debby Moorhead, Willie Weatherford, and Carlon Perry. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Cutting sales tax sharing deals to lure retail business to Manteca is an issue that the four mayoral and three city council hopefuls weren’t in agreement on during Wednesday’s candidates’ forum.

Of prime concern was the past decision to split future sales tax from in-store sales with firms to locate in Manteca – specifically  like Bass Pro and Costco – banking on the city pocketing sales tax it wouldn’t otherwise have received plus helping attract other commercial firms into the community.

Those sitting at the council dais during the forum co-sponsored by the San Joaquin County League of Women Voters and the Manteca Bulletin were mayoral candidates Ben Cantu, Carlon Perry, Willie Weatherford and Debby Moorhead.  Those seeking a spot on the city council in the Nov. 2 election were Richard Behling, John Harris and Vince Hernandez.  Samuel Anderson wasn’t able to attend the Wednesday night forum.

The actual question put to the candidates asked whether the city should continue the sales tax sharing deals in the future to lure targeted firms into the Manteca community.

Cantu was first to answer with an emphatic “no” saying that no such arrangements should be offered until a long list of needs in the community are first addressed.  Those needs include the library, a cultural center and the downtown revitalization, he said.  He further claimed that the municipal budget is not balanced, property values are on the decline and traffic circulation needs attention.

“It’s the same items that have been on this list for decades,” Cantu said.  “The monies that have been invested, whether it’s property tax or whatever resource, it has been has taken away the resources needed to take care of the list of items.”

Cantu said he has nothing against investing in new development, thinking it is a necessary motive to maintain a fiscally balanced community.  But he doesn’t feel it needs to be all of the resources.  .

“No, I don’t think we should be giving corporate welfare to major industry or to major retailers coming into Manteca,” former mayor Perry said. “The problem with doing that is we actually give away too much money and it ends up being sales tax money to operate our police and fire – what happens is we come up short.  We expect more services from our police and fire – they’re expected to do more with less money.”

He said he also believes part of the problem is using taxpayer money to go against other businesses in the community that are paying that tax. It is helping fund other businesses that are coming into the city.

Moorhead agreed that she doesn’t believe in giving sales tax monies away, adding that if business wants to move into Manteca, they need to pay their fare share.  

“I do understand that it is sometimes necessary to entice certain businesses to come to Manteca in the past by doing that.  However by doing that it did create jobs which we needed in our community,” she said.  

Moorhead added that she doesn’t feel it is a good policy to continue sharing the sales taxes now because of the economy.

Hernandez said that by bringing business into the community with tax incentives, it creates a residual effect for more interest in the community by investors.  

“Nothing from nothing equals nothing,” Hernandez said.  “Something for something equals something.”

Hernandez said the luring of  business community all started out of Spreckels Park with the development of 282 acres of commercial and light industrial in what had been a sugar beet processing plant and earlier a cattle yard.

“You can see,  if you drive around,  the benefits that were brought to the city of Manteca: In ‘n Out Burger, Starbucks, and Jamba Juice.  You go out toward Bass Pro Shops you have Best Buy and Costco,” he said.  

The residual effect in the business community can be seen with the location of Dryers Grand ice cream, Ford Motor Company and Kaiser Permanente, he explained.

He claimed there are a myriad of businesses that have come to Manteca.

“When they see a city that’s vibrant and successful -- that is the residual effect - with businesses wanting to come to your town,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez noted that the income from sales tax in the 2005-06 fiscal year was only $5.5 million.  After voters passed the Measure M sales tax increase for police and fire, the sales tax revenue reached $9.2 million.

Weatherford said that when the city adopted its “inducement policy” some eight years ago, Perry was the mayor at the time “and we moved forward anyway.

“When you have a company such as Target, Home Depot, and others coming to your community, oftentimes you had to look at land costs.  Land cost was tremendous,  so to help them locate in our community, we looked at three things: increase in property tax, increase in sales tax and how many jobs it would generate.”

Weatherford said that formula has been used until the current time and the city has been “extremely successful.”   He pointed out that the end result was that the city was able to hire more police and balance the budget every year.

“There’s a rumor going around that the city has an unbalanced budget – that’s not true.  California, by law, requires that cities have a balanced budget.  I’m in favor of using redevelopment (funds) to bring new business to our community to benefit the citizens of Manteca to reduce costs,” Weatherford said.

Behling also said “no” to the sales tax question “for the simple fact that if business feels they can make money in Manteca they will come.”

“Government does not create jobs,” Behling insisted.   “I don’t think sales tax sharing is good.”  He also questioned the licensing procedures and the business tax rates suggesting that those elements might hinder new business.

Harris said he feels that the Costco and Bass Pro Shops have served as magnets in bringing other business and industries into the Manteca area.  He noted that the city of Tracy is envious of Manteca’s current position in attracting business.

Other questions posed to the candidates asked their views on privatization of the library system, whether they favor hiring back police officers and, if so,  how would they pay for them and whether Measure M should be repealed.  Their responses to remaining questions may be seen in Friday’s edition of The Bulletin.