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Manteca spending plan is rarity among last 40 years
Manteca spending plan is rarity among last 40 years
Manteca’s budget includes funding a project to turn food waste into clean compressed gas to power the city’s garbage trucks. - photo by Bullletin file photo

Manteca is on a roll.

The $40.1 million general fund budget  for the fiscal year starting July 1 that’s before the City Council for adoption on Tuesday represents a 1-2 combo that hasn’t happened  in at least 40 years  — a balanced budget with significant new spending.

And, if you toss in the enterprise funds for wastewater, garbage, and water service along with planned major capital improvements from what will be California’s is first diverging diamond interchange at Union Road and the 120 Bypass to a trendsetting undertaking to covert food waste to clean fuel to power refuse collection trucks, an argument could be made this is the most robust and fiscally sound budget in 100 years of cityhood.

While elected leaders expressed frustration they could add more staff positions to improve city services for citizens and spend even more money on repairing streets, the overall budget of $151.9 million has a lot of significant new spending with 25 percent of the general fund set aside in reserves.

Budget highlights include:

uFor the fifth consecutive year, Manteca has a balanced budget. That means for the next fiscal year Manteca expects to cover all the expenses they incur providing day-to-day city services with all of the revenue they will collect during the same 12 months and have an estimated balance of $319,787 on June 20, 2018.

uFour new police officer positions will be filled — the most new funding for officers in the city’s history.

uThe increased general fund revenue of $1.5 million covers ongoing expenses and projected compensation increases. 

uMoney is being set aside to help the city to try and get ahead of the looming pension crisis.

uWastewater treatment upgrades are being tackled concurrently with the implementation to convert food waste combined with methane gas — a byproduct of the treatment process — to produce compressed gas to power the city’s fleet of garbage trucks. It will meet a state mandate to reduce how much waste cities landfill and clean the air by reducing methane gas releases as well as trucks burning clean fuel.

uMain Street from Yosemite Avenue to Atherton Drive and Yosemite Avenue from Main Street to Cottage Avenue will see upgraded pavement and safety enhancements.

uGround will break on the city’s fifth fire station at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue.

uManteca continues to upgrade both the water and wastewater systems without rate increases.

Manteca has come a long way from 2006 when then City Manager Steve Pinkerton splashed the equivalent of freezing water in the faces of elected leaders and municipal staff. That’s when a long range look of city spending at the time showed that within two years the city would be spending more than $2 million a year it didn’t have and by 2010-2011 the city would be spending $12.9 million a year than it would take in through taxes and fees if 2006 trends — the year the Great Recession started — continued.

City on edge of

bankruptcy in 1980

It has come even farther from 1980 when the city was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

The year 1980 was when the budget reserve was a razor-thin $1,800. Manteca’s financial trials were heavy on civic leaders’ minds during the building boom of 1984 to 1987. They didn’t want a repeat of the 1980s experience which forced the city to leave the just completed Louise Avenue fire station unopened because they couldn’t afford to staff it while city police were using old CHP cars with excess of 90,000 miles on them when the city took delivery of them as primary patrol units.

That lead to the 3.9 percent growth cap — the first in the Central Valley.

Growth was again the problem in 2006 but in a different way.

Thanks to a 1999 builders’ initiative to avoid lawsuits as well as to assure certainty for subdivisions to secure sewer allocations over multiple years when the demand for home building permits were on target to exceed allocated sewer connections, development agreement fees or bonus bucks were put in place.

Unlike other growth fees, bonus bucks had no restrictions placed on how the city spent them. They were hailed as a way for existing citizens and newcomers to benefit from growth by helping provide amenities. They did that to a degree. But they were also a convenient fund to dip into to balance the budget.

The bonus bucks allowed the council in 2001 — long before any of the current members were elected — to not only drop a $2.35 a month tax on city utility bills that brought in over $690,000 a year at the time but to also make $1.4 million in refunds to ratepayers.

Before 2001 elected leaders steadfastly refused to raise golf green fees and other non-tax general fund charges because they feared backlash at the ballot box.

Then with bonus bucks in place, the council majority at the time rejected staff recommendations to raise various growth fees arguing they were an unfair tax on new residents.

Bonus bucks allowed

city to live on

“borrowed time”

Meanwhile for the city to stay competitive with nearby jurisdictions and those in the Bay Area within a reasonable commute distance for police officers, firefighters, and other municipal staff the city raised wages and did not worry about exceeding revenue.

That’s because they were tapping into bonus bucks to balance the budget.

By the time everything settled in 2010 and the city weaned itself off of bonus bucks to balance the general fund, $11.7 million — or almost a third — of the bonus bucks collected had been used to prop up the budget.

It took layoffs, all employees except police taking 20 percent pay cuts on their existing paychecks and already agreed to pay raises, as well as a tax that had been collected on new construction and set aside for general use in a reserve to allow the city to weather the Great Recession.

The bonus bucks collected on new homes essentially propped the city budget up for almost a decade.

Then City Manager Bob Adams had warned repeated about the dangers of doing so but his concerns that were outlined in annual budget messages were ignored.

Earlier this month when the council directed staff to double the number of new police officers to four as well as restore overtime for police and fire plus add positions to move stalled public works and parks projects forward, staff said it would require a structured deficit meaning they would need to spend more money than the city projected they would take in.

That drew a sharp rebuke from Mayor Steve DeBrum — who was first elected to the council in 2003 and inherited the budget policies of previous council. Declaring “we’ve worked too hard” to come up with balanced budgets, he said he’d come up with a list of cuts for the council if staff couldn’t.

City Manager Tim Ogden indicated that staff would follow council’s direction.

The end result is the budget that is before the council when they meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.