The half-cent sales tax collected on taxable transactions for public safety is about to deliver more than what architects of Measure M promised voters.
The tax in the coming months will fund a 16th and 17th police officer going beyond the 15 police officers and 15 firefighters Measure M promised and who are now funded by the half cent sales tax.
The new positions are included in an amended proposed $40.1 million municipal spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1 that is before the Manteca City Council on Tuesday. The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.
The two Measure M police officer positions are meeting a council directive to staff to fund four more police officer positions. The other two positions are being covered by the city’s general funds.
It marks the most new front-line law enforcement positions ever created in a single budget over Manteca’s 100-year history as a city. It also will put sworn officer staffing at 69 — an all-time high. The previous high was 67 reached in 2008 before the Great Recession hit. Revenue shortfalls coupled with the police association’s decision not to follow in the steps of other city employee groups to reduce salaries and drop negotiated raises yet to be paid to save jobs led to 12 officers being laid off due to budget cuts in 2011. That reduced police manpower to 55 officers.
Equally important is the fact three of the new positions will be filled by Sept. 30 with the fourth starting on Jan. 1. In the past when the council added new police officers — or most other municipal positions for that matter — staff would delay the recruitment process until halfway through the budget year and then bring on new employees in the spring. That was a strategy staff put in place to save money.
When the council last year made it clear they didn’t want that practice to continue, staff stepped up the recruitment process.
There are eight potential new hires now completing the background check. Four will fill four existing positions that are vacant. Those officers will start work between June 25 and July 15. With their hiring it will mark the first time in years that police staffing as budgeted has been 100 percent filled. Of the four new positions, two of them will be staffed sometime between July 15 and Aug. 31. The anticipated start date of the third officer is between Aug. 15 and Sept. 30. The fourth officer is expected to be on board by Jan. 1.
Voters approved Measure M in November of 2006. Language in the ballot measure requires public safety spending to stay at the same percentage of the general fund that was in place at the time voters approved the tax. That was so the city wouldn’t use measure M receipts to supplant general fund support of public safety. In 2006, just fewer than 63 cents of every general fund dollar went to police and fire positions.
The impact of Measure M can’t be over emphasized. By the time the next fiscal year ends, 24.6 percent or 17 of the city’s 69 police officers will be paid using Measure M receipts. Fifteen of the city’s 37 frontline firefighters — or 40.5 percent — are covered by the half cent sales tax.
The Public Safety Sales Tax Fund has benefitted from growth in taxable sales, most notably deals that brought Costco and Bass Pro Shops to Manteca. The sales tax in the current fiscal year ending June 30 is on track to bring in $6,639,540 against expenditures of $5,778,781. Next fiscal year with the addition of the 16th and 17th Measure M police officers, expenditures will reach $6,657,455 against anticipated revenue of $6,623,822.
While that represents deficit spending of $33,633 when expenses are compared with revenues collected during the 12-month period, the Measure M fund is solid.
That’s because it was established with a council directive to provide 50 percent in reserve to guard against economic slowdowns or an unexpected loss of a major source of retail sales. As a result in the upcoming fiscal year, the 50 percent reserve will have $3,328,728 set aside. Once the reserve and expenditures are taken into account the Measure M fund is projected to have a $459,946 balance or just about half of what it is in the current fiscal year.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org