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Voters will decide fate of sales tax hike, $260M bond for schools Nov. 3

Manteca city voters will be asked to consider two tax increases on Nov. 3 — one to approve a $260 million school bond and another to OK a one cent increase in city sales tax.

The Manteca Unified board Tuesday approved final language placing a $260 million bond on the ballot. Hours later the Manteca City Council took a similar step and gave final authorization for a penny sales tax measure. The bond measure requires 55 percent approval to pass and the sales tax a simple majority.

Voters within Manteca’s city limits will cast ballots on both measures. Those in rural Manteca, Lathrop minus River Islands, the Weston Ranch section of Stockton, and French Camp will vote only for the school bond.

Making this election unique is the fact Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered it to be conducted entirely by mail-in or drop-off ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That means ballots will be mailed to every registered voter shortly after the start of October. That will result in people being able to start voting in about two months from now instead of the majority doing so on Election Day in three months.

It essentially compresses the time period for those making the case for or against the taxes.

But perhaps more importantly it could change the dynamics of who actually casts votes with no one able to predict with any degree of certainty what that means. A special Congressional election in Los Angeles County in May stunned political analysts when all eligible voters received a ballot was won by a Republican in a suburban Los Angeles district dominated by Democrats.

The correspondence the City Council received from citizens prior to a 4-0 vote with Councilwoman Debby Moorhead absent due to health reasons to place the sales tax measure before the voters may provide a hint at the ballot box landscape.

The city received four letters favoring the tax measure being placed on the Nov. 3 ballot and two against.

One of the four in favor was from Frank Torrice representing the Manteca Professional Firefighter Association. The other three were from relatively newer Manteca residents that indicated they understood the financial stress the city was undergoing trying to keep municipal service at levels people say they want while dealing with growth. The two against were from longer established and older residents.

In speaking in support of placing the sales tax on the ballot that municipal staff projects will raise $12 million in its first full year, every council member stressed they were doing so to let the voters decide.

Mayor Ben Cantu, who got the ball rolling over a year ago on having staff explore options on enhancing revenue, stressed that the proposed tax is in response from what he kept hearing over and over again during his campaign that people wanted increased service levels and more amenities.

Cantu said it is now up to the voters to decide if that is what they really want.

“It (the sales tax) costs money but it is going for good things,” Councilman Jose Nuño noted.

Councilman Dave Breitenbucher said he favored giving citizens “the opportunity to decide if they want (the sales tax) or not.”

Gary Singh added if voters rejected the tax that he’d “be fine with that.”

Deputy City Manager Toni Lundgren noted community surveys of citizens said they wanted to see funding concentrated on fire service improvement, crime prevention, improved safety in public spots, road safety, economic development, and youth and teen programs.


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