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Dont break our backs
Citizens message: No new municipal taxes
Kirk Dall
Kirk Dall’s lips made it clear: No new taxes.

Dall was the messenger at Tuesday’s City Council meeting and he was there to kill any talk of a new municipal utility tax.

“This is the straw that will break (our backs),” Dall said of the proposed utility tax trial balloon floated by municipal staff as a possible way to help cover a part of a projected $11.3 million deficit expected to materialize in the fiscal year starting July 1.

Dall, speaking as the chair of the 15-member council-appointed citizens budget advisory committee, made it clear the panel’s sentiments were to continue finding ways to cut costs including meeting with employee groups to try and roll back wages and/or benefits or else lay off workers.

Dall pointed to the city’s nearly 3,000 unemployed, the new increases in state taxes, rising food costs, and the continuing foreclosure mess as being ample reasons why elected leaders shouldn’t entertain a new tax as a way to get the city out from under its approaching tidal wave of red ink.

Instead, he noted the committee embraced staff proposals to recoup costs through imposing fees for the actual cost of municipal services wherever possible.

Dall pointed to the hiring freeze that is saving $1.8 million a year, $219,000 cut by reorganizing staff, $800,000 through employee furloughs, $625,000 in early retirement, and $500,000 by bringing outside work back in-house as examples of the city being on the right track.

Dall said the committee also wants to encourage the city to outsource work to the private sector where it makes sense to save money. That is the polar opposite of what the city plans to do to snare $250,000 in revenue by bringing in-house maintenance work for the city’s nearly three dozen landscape maintenance districts that have an aggregate annual cost of over $1 million for impacted homeowners in Manteca. Staff figures they can come within 5 percent of what the private sector charges while being able to retain park maintenance positions to do park upkeep.

Fourteen positions are now vacant in the police department which puts staffing close to the minimal required under language adopted by voters when they approved the Measure M public safety half cent sales tax. Because of that if staff reductions occur they more than likely will take place in the fire and parks departments. Some 85 percent of the city’s general fund budget is tied up in labor-related costs.

If the city manages to obtain 100 percent cost recovery it would generate $2,316,000 for development related fees including $934,000 for planning, $661,000 for building, $289,000 for public works, $282,000 for parks, and $250,000 for fire.

That goal is lofty for several reasons one of which was underscored Tuesday night when the council balked at imposing a 100 percent cost recovery fee for fireworks booth permits at $500 and slashed it to $350. The $500 per booth – or $7,000 overall for the 14 booths allowed – reflects the actual labor costs associated with having fire inspections conducted throughout the week as required by state law.

The city is starting its budget planning with an estimated $40.7 million in expenses versus $29.4 million in revenues. That will create an $11.3 million gap. It is reduced to a $9.3 million deficit once $2 million in general fund reserves are applied.

Various cuts in place as well as budget reduction strategies being pursued are expected to leave another $2 million to $4 million gap.

Dall is a Manteca businessman who also serves on the planning commission and is president of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce board.