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Hotel room tax increase passes; Breitenbucher Morowit elected
Mayoral hopeful Ben Cantu watched results at his headquarters along with his grandson Vincent Carter and wife Mary. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

The sixth time may be the charm for Ben Cantu.

Cantu with 30 of 30 precincts reporting was leading incumbent Steve DeBrum 6,514 to 6,388 votes. That is a 50.49 percent to 49.51 percent margin.

There are still provisional ballots to be counted but as of late Tuesday night it was unclear on how many of them involve the Manteca election.

Meanwhile retired fire captain David Breitenbucher secured one of the two open council seats with 5,720 votes (27.76%). Incumbent Mike Morowit held onto his seat with 5,499 votes (26.69%). Planning commission member Jose Nuno was in third with 5,158 votes (25.04 percent) while PG&E worker Chris Silva was in fourth with 4,225 votes (20.51%).

Cantu shortly after the polls closed when the returns from ballots that had been turned in or mailed in well in advance of Tuesday’s voting were counted showing him just a little more than 200 votes behind DeBrum, credited his success in what is his sixth run for either council or mayor to the strong campaign led by his campaign manager Dave Cushman and organized volunteers.

In his previous five attempts, Cantu relied primarily on himself to run his campaigns.

“The issues and my position haven’t changed in the past 12 years,” Cantu said. “The campaign has made the difference.”

Cantu said volunteers knocked on at least 2,500 doors.

DeBrum Tuesday also noted that Cantu had run an “excellent campaign.”

While the final unofficial result may not be known for days or weeks, the 2018 race for mayor will go down as the tightest since 1994 when Bill Perry edged Carlon Perry by less than 60 votes.

Depending upon how many votes are left to be counted that are provisional — typically those mailed and postmarked as of Tuesday but not received before election day as well as absentee ballots dropped off at polling places — that are yet to be counted, there could be a change in the lead for mayor. That has happened in several South County council races in the last two election cycles as more and more people vote by mail or in advance. San Joaquin County elections officials expected 60 percent of the votes cast this year to be by absentee to set an all-time record.

The outstanding votes have to have their signatures verified before they can be counted.

Measure J passes

Measure M — the proposal to increase hotel room taxes from 9 to 12 percent — passed 7,520 to 5,758 with 30 of 30 precincts reporting. The 56.64 percent approval rate surpassed the simple majority needed for the measure to be adopted.

There are still provisional ballots but it is unlikely to change the outcome.

The new room tax rate — the first increase in 27 years — will go into effect early year. That means the tax paid on a $100 room for a one night stay would increase by $3 going from $9 to $12. 

With existing hotels that will increase the city’s room tax receipts for the first full year by $450,000. 

By passing the tax increase it will be in place when the 500-room Great Wolf Resort opens in mid-2020. The $180 million resort project is conducting ground breaking ceremonies this Thursday.

Using the historic 70 percent occupancy figures for its resorts Great Wolf expects to collect $4,237,000 in annual room taxes at the existing 9 percent rate.

Based on the 25-year period the city has agreed to share room tax with Great Wolf, the first $2 million a year would go to Great Wolf to help offset the $180 million plus in development costs. The remaining room tax would be shared with the city receiving 25 percent and Great Wolf receiving 75 percent for the first 10 years. Then for the next 15 years the split is 50-50 before the city receives all of the room tax in the 26th year and thereafter.

That 25 percent split for the first 10 years brings the city’s share to $529,625.

None of the increase of the room tax going from 9 percent to 12 percent will be shared with Great Wolf.  Based on the $4,237,000 annual room tax collection projection at 9 percent, jumping the tax rate to 12 percent would bring an additional $1,412,333 to the city’s general fund.  

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email