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Manteca isnt Vallejo
Mayor: City being candid, addressing budget issues
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Manteca isn’t on the verge of financial collapse like Vallejo.

Mayor Willie Weatherford dismisses those critics who are calling for Manteca to file bankruptcy or to make severe down-to-the-bone cuts in view of the projected $11.3 million deficit in the municipal budget starting July 1.

The reason?

The situation is serious but it isn’t catastrophic. Weatherford noted that Manteca is being candid and is looking at the worst-case scenarios in a bid to make sure that nothing is left unexamined in a bid to make the right cuts.

“It’s like any bad situation,” Weatherford said. “If you can learn from it you will be better for it.”

The projected deficit of $11.3 million that will start accumulating in the fiscal year starting July 1 is for real if the current spending and revenue trends continue that were noted in late 2008. Since then, though, the city has taken steps to stop certain spending and to prepare for next fiscal year when the deficit will start piling up if nothing is done.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton noted during a council workshop that strategies either in place or being examined for implementation could cover half of that projected $11.3 million deficit.

There is also almost $2 million in carryover from last fiscal year in terms of additional revenue that wasn’t projected and savings from the expenditure side that is available for addressing deficit issues.

Weatherford believes Manteca is in somewhat better shape than neighboring cities thanks in part to efforts made to strengthen the retail base over the past few years. That has resulted in increased commercial property values that actually allowed property tax receipts to rise this year as opposed to dropping in nearby cities. Sales tax has dropped 12 percent but would have gone farther if Stadium Retail Center and Spreckels Park hadn’t been put in place through redevelopment agency efforts.

Weatherford noted that while it isn’t good that Circuit City is closing, Manteca would have Best Buy to take over that hole in the sales tax picture thanks to decisions made by the council in recent years. Bass Pro and Costco — even with the sales tax split — represents sales tax dollars Manteca wasn’t getting. The figures for those two stores aren’t reflected in the 12 percent drop and are expected to cut that percentage loss down to the single digits as the fiscal year draws to a close June 30.

As for a “bad thing” providing positive changes, Weatherford said the plan to switch to an electronic thumb imprint system for workers to punch in and out is something that may not have gotten anyone’s attention as a smart move in good times.

“The police department alone has someone working 20 hours a month verifying manual time cards,” Weatherford said.

Staff has indicated the switch from manual to thumb print time clocks among the 400 plus municipal workers will save in excess of $80,000 a year due to errors. It also will free up time in all departments that must manually tabulate time cards plus time in the finance department. The system is expected to pay for itself after three months.

“You need to look at how you do business to see if it can be done better every day,” Pinkerton said last week in an interview. “You can’t remain stagnant.”

Weatherford likened the process now underway at re-evaluating how Manteca does everything from staffing to the level of services provided as using the same approach as the Marines.

“The Marines Corps have to be slim and trim and ready for anything,” the mayor said.

Weatherford noted what is happening isn’t a Manteca problem but rather a national and even a global issue in terms of the economy.

“I guess I’m kind of an optimist but I’m confident that we are going to pull out of this fairly soon,” Weatherford said.

But even if the economy still sputters and doesn’t pick up, the city is preparing for that eventuality.

They have taken the conditions that existed in December — revenue and spending trends — assumed they would remain unchanged to project what they will be dealing with down the road.

That included a projected deficit of $14 million in 2010-11, $15 million to $16 million in 2011-12 and $16 million to $17 million in 2012-13.

The mayor said Manteca is not sugar coating anything but emphasized the city is far from being on the verge of financial collapse, as some seem to think.