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The $900K+ elephant: Is MUSD due refund from city for SROs?

When it comes to collecting money they shouldn’t have from the Manteca Unified School District for school resource officers the City of Manteca is taking the tact let bygones be bygones.

And going forward the city wants to separate the school resource program that had been intermingled with a quid pro quo agreement that in the past hadn’t been nailed down with specific contractual details so they can continue to  bill the district — and collect money — for at one of three school resource officers.

The money that the city collected over the years from the school district for two SRO positions that were mandated to be funded as part of Measure M  that authorized the collection of the half cent public safety sales tax could be in excess of $900,000. Going forward the city in their proposed budget has indicated that they — at least at one point — want the school district to pay $100,000 for one SRO.

But the school district believes that $100,000 — if that is indeed what should be charged for one SRO — won’t cover the wide chasm between the $417,000 worth of school facilities the city used last year for various recreation programs and the value of city facilities the school used based on published rates.

And during a “two by two meeting” Tuesday between council members Gary Singh and Dave Breitenbucher as well as school trustees Karen Pearsall and Cathy Pope Gotschall, there was a sense that the MUSD might be willing to accept coming up somewhat on the short end of the stick in a quid pro quo arrangement even if the SRO charge disappeared in an effort to make the arrangement more equitable.

Even though it was just a discussion as neither the school board nor council members had the authority to negotiate for their fellow elected colleagues — the negotiations are being left up to City Manager Tim Ogden and District Superintendent Clark Burke — it was clear that if a deal can’t be worked out that the city could take a big financial hit.

That’s based on the school district’s premise that the city has much heavier use of school facilities using “published rates” and not charges that have been provided by the city that are on top of published rates they charge others that use city facilities. Depending on what numbers both sides end up accepting as being comparing apples with apples, the shortfall could be $200,000 or more a year.

Based on what Pearsall characterized as “double taxation” — people paying for two SRO officers for a number of years through sales tax paid at Manteca businesses and then the city turning around and billing for those same two positions — the city will see at least $100,000 to $200,000 less a year in revenue based on past billings the school district paid for those two positions.

But the elephant in the room Tuesday that Pearsall made clear that at least for her as one board member was a major issue was whether there is a legal ground for the district to claw back upwards of $900,000 or more they have paid for SROs when they shouldn’t have been billed for them.

Ogden had acknowledged that the city should not have been charging for two of the positions once the error was pointed out to them by the school district and the matter was researched.

The only response the city offered was a comment by Singh that “it was in the past” and the city wanted “to move forward.”

The hour plus meeting ended as it started with representatives of both agencies declaring they wanted to find common ground to work in the best interest of the community.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email