The Manteca City Council made it absolutely clear — two more police officers are not enough.
Led by Mayor Steve DeBrum, staff was told by the council to bring back the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 with funding for four additional police officers instead of just two additional officers that the staff proposed.
“I absolutely want four more police officers in the new budget,” DeBrum said after the council meeting Tuesday.
Councilwoman Debby Moorhead agreed with the mayor noting she would not accept anything less.
“I’d like to see more,” Councilman Gary Singh said. “Two more (officers) aren’t enough.”
Tuesday’s direction to staff marked the first time in 30 years — if not longer — that a council has significantly revamped a proposed spending plan developed by staff using guidelines put in place over the years by elected officials.
And unlike two years ago when council directed that a $105,000 tweak be made to allow the hiring of a second community resource officer, staff didn’t respond initially by warning off dire cuts despite general fund reserves being at 25 percent.
Instead City Manager Tim Ogden pledged to “make it work” and to have a revised spending plan back before the council for possible adoption on June 19.
Ogden estimated the added expenses for the general fund could cost upwards of $700,000.
urestoring $162,000 in firefighter overtime that had been proposed to be cut due to council concerns it could add to response times by not manning the rescue squad through much of the year.
urestoring $310,000 in police overtime that had been proposed to be cut due to council concerns they didn’t want the police chief to have to comeback during the year and ask for additional funding for staffing major incidents such as shootings and murders that may deplete the OT account.
uadditional manpower in the public works and parks departments to move forward funded projects that are being stalled due to staffing shortages.
ufunding for four additional police officers to take the current budgeted sworn officer positions from 67 to 71 instead of just two officers as staff recommended.
Councilman Richard Silverman who characterized four more new police officers as “just a start” said he was disappointed when he first saw the proposed budget.
He noted there has been robust growth just as there was last year when more positions were added. Silverman noted the big difference is the hit the general fund is taking in increased funding for the California Public Employees Retirement System. The city has to spend almost $2 million more this year or roughly 11.6 cents of every dollar in general fund revenue anticipated between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019 due to what Silverman characterized as “bad management” of the pension system by CalPERS.
Silverman noted that $2 million could secure a number of needed city positions and/or fund pressing projects.
DeBrum alluded to Manteca “sitting on money” in reference to an anticipated $23.1 million in total assigned reserves versus a proposed $41.2 million general fund expenditure budget.
Money may come from
coming changes in
city’s reserve policy
The reserves are part of a council strategy to help the city weather the next economic downturn as well as to provide funding for replacement of equipment as it ages or to have funds for major anticipated expenses beyond what is set aside in other accounts such as growth and transportation fees.
While the reserves for public facilities oversizing that expects to have a balance of $1,642,625 on June 30, 2019 after $4 million are spent on a new north sewer trunk line were fees collected with a specific purpose in mind, the other reserves capturing general fund receipts were created by council policy, They are, along with the projected balance on June 30, 2019 after projects proposed for the next 12 months are funded:
$10,149,881 for fiscal stability, cash flow, and contingencies. This is a full 25 percent reserve of the general fund for the upcoming fiscal year.
$4,059,952 for economic emergencies and uncertainties.
$4,463,411 for economic revitalization.
$1,222,981 for capital facilities.
$1,595,977 for technology.
Ogden and the staff were already planning to bring a change in the reserve policy based on council direction given in March back before elected leaders at the June 19 meeting for adoption.
Based on those reserve policy revisions envisioned in March, much of the $700,000 could come from a plan already in place to pump up undesignated reserves to provide the council with more discretionary funding throughout the year to address non-budgeted community wants or needs that may arise throughout the year.
Another source — at least for the police officers — could be the Measure M fund. Ogden had already indicated a revised spending plan would be brought back to the council shortly to possibly authorize one or more new positions. Currently the half cent sales tax funds 15 police officers and 15 firefighters.
The new pension policy as outlined three months ago would provide a cushion against rising pension costs as well as provide elected officials with a significant discretionary pool of money
Based on this year’s budget, if the policy changes had been in place it would have created an unassigned pool of funds of $1.4 million as opposed to $170,882. If all of the $700,000 in additional costs came from the unassigned reserves created with a change in the reserve policy that could take place, no cuts in the budget for next fiscal year as it now stands would be needed.
Ogden in March was able to propose the reserve policy change by shifting away from a position the council adopted three years ago on the advice of then City Manager Karen McLaughlin to funnel the residual property tax from the redevelopment agency property taxes into a reserve she recommended creating that was dubbed the “economic revitalization” reserve.
The money is the city’s share of property tax that would have gone to the RDA. Without the RDA that money would have continued to flow to the general fund between the mid-1980s when the agency was formed and until it was disbanded several years ago by the state.
McLaughlin viewed this as “new money” that could replace the economic stimulus function of the shuttered RDA after noting “we got along fine without the money” for years. It is money, if the city had access to it instead of it being diverted to the RDA that would have paid for day-to-day government services such as police, fire and streets. Some residents took a dim view of that stance arguing that Manteca wasn’t getting along fine as it could easily have covered the salaries of four to six additional police officers of have funded street work.
When the economic revitalization fund was created three years ago, the annual RDA residual was $800,000 a year. It is now at $1.2 million a year and will continue to grow as property values increase on impacted properties that were once part of the RDA. For example, the city expects property tax receipts to increase by 7.5 percent in the next fiscal year.
If the new reserve policy as outlined by Ogden were retroactively applied to the current budget, the council would have an unassigned fund of $1,471,135 to draw upon as opposed to $170, 882.
There also could be $1,908,245 for pension stability. That would provide a source of funding toc over pension costs for a year should the economy take a dive or allow the council to seize opportunities to “buy down” future interest costs associated with pension payments.
As outlined in the March proposal, going forward caps would be placed on the economic revitalization fund at $3 million, on the capital facilities fund at $1.5 million and the technology reserve at $1.5 million.
Council clear why
they want public
safety OT restored
Council was pointedly adamant about not cutting firefighter or police overtime equating it to reducing public safety in Manteca.
Councilman Mike Morowit asked how people would view overtime cutbacks that would reduce rescue squad staffing if their child had stopped breathing and instead of help arriving ibn four to five minutes it got there in seven.
The rescue squad currently serves as fifth front-line response unit in addition to a fire engine stationed at each of the city’s four fire stations.
It has played a critical role in responding to calls in southeast Manteca where upwards of 3,000 homes are outside the targeted five-minute response time. The vast majority of Manteca Fire calls are for medical emergencies. Southeast Manteca is the area that would be serves by the fifth fire station that the City Council has made clear they want built at Atherton Drive and Woodward Avenue so it is up and running by sometime in 2020.
Silverman said it found it unacceptable that the reduction in the fire department overtime budget would reduce the number of frontline fire apparatus in “a city of 81,000” from five to four.
“If anything we should be adding a sixth,” Silverman said.
When pressed by DeBrum, Police Chief Jodie Estarziau said the reduction in police OT would mean police would not staff a number of community events.
The mayor said he anticipated if the OT cuts went into place the council would overrule the staff if they tried to keep within budget by cutting back on community events and order the money be spent anyway.
The budget had been proposed with 26 percent cuts in public safety overtime.
By the time the current fiscal year ends on June 30, the city expects to have spent $1,599,043 on overtime. The savings of $310,000 percent was planned to be shifted to cover the cost of hiring two new police officers and a dispatcher given having those positions on board would reduce some of the need for overtime.
Much of the overtime is unavoidable as it involves court appearances, major investigations, illness, vacation, and staffing shortfalls caused by injuries.
Estarziau said the department, with the reduced OT, would have delayed writing reports when necessary save for those involving booking a person into the jail. When she noted the department was prepared to shift an investigator to patrol, when necessary, the council balked at the idea given they felt the department’s detective unit was already understaffed. They stressed that follow up investigations were an important element in fighting crime.
The fire department overtime is expected to hit $652.605 this year driven in part by vacancies that were just recently filled. The 26 percent reduction would have saved $162,500.
The fire department is now at full front-line staffing with 37 firefighters.
Manteca Police currently has 67 budgeted positions and is trying to fill four vacancies.
Estarziau added the department is also working to stay ahead of future vacancies by anticipating retirements well in advance and starting a search for replacement officers as early as possible.
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