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Parcel tax for parks? Its an option
Manteca staff exploring options for council, voters to consider
City parks worker Hugo Harrewya does maintenance work at Manteca’s Union West Park. - photo by Bulletin file photo
It takes plenty of green - $7.9 million this year alone – to keep Manteca’s parks green and to oversee recreation programs.

Of that, $5.1 million comes from the general fund that is facing an $11.3 million deficit expected to develop over the fiscal year starting July 1. That means even if all parks general fund operations were eliminated, it would still leave a $6.2 million gap to bridge.

It is against that backdrop that municipal staff is exploring another possible funding option for elected leaders to consider – a parcel tax for park maintenance. Such a tax assessed at the rate of $10 per month or $120 a year for each residential parcel in Manteca regardless of its size would generate about $2.4 million. By including commercial properties, it could reduce residential parcel costs or increase projected revenue.

“These are just ideas,” City Manager Steve Pinkerton said in reference to the parcel tax and utility tax concepts being tossed around. “We could cut out everything in the general fund except public safety and still wouldn’t be able to cover the deficit. It is obviously going to take a lot of cuts, cutbacks in services, and some type of new revenue.”

Pinkerton told a recent gathering of the 15-member citizens’ budget advisory committee that possible solutions could be either a parcel tax, utility tax or a combination of the two plus implementing cost recovery fees of various services the city performs that benefit only a small segment of the population.

A landscape maintenance district could establish separate zones of benefits that property owners within the designated area would decide whether to proceed. It would require just a 50 percent majority to approve but would require time consuming engineering reports to clearly delineate special benefits for specific areas.

The other option is a city wide parcel tax or a community facilities tax that would require a two thirds upper majority to pass.
It would allow a charge such as $1 a month per parcel to address aging park infrastructure needs. The $1 a month would generate $240,000.

In a memo to the budget group, Parks and Recreation Director Steve Houx noted such parcel taxes would give local control over revenues with strong oversight and accountability provisions that resonate “very strongly” with voters. Such measures generate a stable and local funding source.

Houx noted the strong oversight with audits, public expenditure reports, and citizen oversight committees reassure voters their money will be spent wisely and efficiently.

Strategies the department is pursuing to help address the deficit includes reducing maintenance levels in parks to save $350,000, instituting cost recovery where possible to generate $100,000, bill all planning and construction costs to capital projects to save the general fund $60,000, and adjust golf fees and operations to free up $100,000.

The department may also take over all landscape maintenance districts in existence by having existing staff do the work to generate another $250,000 for general fund expenses.
Pinkerton has indicated that he expects measures either in place or being implemented will cut the projected deficit in half.

More firm revenue figures are expected in April which means the deficit projection for next fiscal year could be revised upward or down.