By DENNIS WYATT
Mayor Ben Cantu believes the answer to what ails Manteca in terms of staffing shortages, a huge backlog of street maintenance, and the lack of recreational facilities from an aquatics center to a new library can be addressed with one bold initiative — a communitywide Mello Roos district to cover all general fund support of police and fire services.
“My goal is to have a measure to that effect on the November 2020 ballot,” Cantu said.
Actually such a measure wouldn’t appear on a standard ballot. That’s because under California law the only people that have the authority voting on whether to form a community facilities district are landowners within the boundaries of a proposed CFD.
Such elections are conducted by mail with the owner of each parcel — residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, or vacant — having one vote. That means if someone owned a home on a residential lot as well as a commercial lot/building within the CFD they would have two votes. If someone or a company had 24 rental homes all on separate parcels they would have 24 votes.
The first step toward a potential CFD being imposed for police and fire services takes place Tuesday when the council will be provided an overview of community facilities districts by the NBS consulting firm when they meet at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
As envisioned such
a CFD would need to
generate $28M annually
Such a CFD would need to initially generate $28 million a year. That would cover the general fund potion of public safety expenditures including $18.6 million for police, $9 million for fire, and $400,000 for animal services. That is separate from $6.9 million raised annually from the half cent public safety sales tax that goes to exclusively pay for frontline public safety personnel. Currently that reflects 15 police officer sand 15 firefighters.
Under Cantu’s vision, that would then free up $28 million a year in the general fund that is currently at $45.9 million overall. That money could be spent on increasing city staffing such as restoring sidewalk maintenance crews as well as other ongoing costs. It could also be used to leverage bonds and pay for them such as the proposed recreation facilities that include an aquatics complex and a community center/recreation gym as well as nine soccer fields, backlogged street maintenance, a new city hall/police department complex and a new library among other things.
That means if the CFD proposal goes forward it could provide the financing mechanism for the $84 million recreation projects that have been outlined as the first phase of implementing the city’s Parks & Recreation Master Plan.
Cantu noted there is no cost figure attached to what a typical property owner would pay or if there would be a built in annual increase for inflation as it is too early to determine.
“This (presentation) is to lay the ground work to find out information,” Cantu said.
Any CFD would require two thirds vote of those who own property in Manteca in order to pass. Those that do not own property would have no say in imposing a communitywide CFD taxes.
Cantu said he believes if a communitywide CFD tax is imposed by property owners that some existing CFD charges should be eliminated. The mayor said that would likely involve eliminating CFDs that have neighborhood park maintenance included and possibly neighborhood street lighting.
The city has no control over CFDs put in place on new subdivisions to help pay for Manteca Unified School District facilities to help house students generated from residential growth.
The mayor said neighborhood parks aren’t exclusively used by those in the subdivision that pay for their upkeep thru CFD taxes. Neighborhood parks not within a CFD are covered by the general fund. Community parks — with the exception of the Big League Dreams sports complex — are also operated and maintained using general fund revenue. The BLD complex under terms of a 35-year lease is operated and maintained by a private entity on the city’s behalf.
Cantu expects initial
reaction to be less
than positive in nature
Cantu said he is well aware that the initial reaction of most to his proposal won’t be friendly.
“Frankly, there is no other way to pay for the things Manteca needs,” Cantu said in reference to the need to consider some form of a new tax.
Cantu rattled off a long list of concerns that have been expressed to him by constituents that they want the city to fund whether it is more police officers, upgrading streets, or building new recreation facilities.
The mayor said the city simply doesn’t have the money to do all of the things that are needed.
He favors an approach that addresses all needs on the table and to essentially propose one tax to cover it instead of trying a nickel and dime approach of pushing for addition taxes that require voter approval.
“If it fails we at least tried,” Cantu said.
The mayor expects the initial reaction to be strongly negative.
“We need to start the conversation,” Cantu said.
He believes a robust discussion that includes explaining what financing is available to cities and restrictions that are placed on what cities can do with many funds they secure will slowly build up support.
Cantu said other options could be explored as well that might be almost as effective to make a CFD proposal more palatable That could possibly be to have a CFD to cover police services only that are now paid by the general fund. That would require $19 million based on general fund spending for police service in the current general fund budget of $45.9 million. That would knock off $9 million.
Going forward as new development occurs such as 20 acres being split into 100 lots for new housing it would generate funding to pay for new frontline public safety personnel to keep up with growth.
The current general fund is supported by $17.8 million in property tax and $13.6 million in sales tax. It would require a 2 cent sales tax hike to generate $27.2 million or just $800,000 less than the amount of general fund revenue now dedicated to police and fire services.