The Manteca City Council has commissioned a survey of 400 registered voters to gauge the public’s level of support for expressed municipal needs and wants plus how much they will stomach when it comes to paying for more services and amenities.
But if you were to ask the steady stream of citizens speaking during Tuesday’s City Council meeting against any community facilities district (CFD) that would encumber existing homes citywide who they think should be footing the bill the answer is clear — those moving here to buy new homes.
“You created a monster and now you want to put (it all) on our backs,” noted Sandra Ahrens in reference to the need for additional public safety personnel and other city staff as well as placing more pressure on limited dollars for street maintenance that growth is creating.
The turnout was in response to Mayor Ben Cantu outlining what he views as the city’s problems going back 41 years to passage of Proposition 13 and the best answer he sees.
Cantu’s answer — a communitywide CFD that would require a two-thirds vote of affected property owners — is to generate $28 million, or enough to cover all current general fund police and fire services, and free up $28 million in the general fund to help tackle a whole laundry list of municipal needs and wants ranging from backlogged street maintenance to recreational amenities.
“This is just the starting point,” Cantu said of his request to have the discussion of a communitywide CFD placed on the agenda.
Cantu said since becoming mayor he had received in excess of 10,000 comments on Facebook from residents complaining what Manteca lacked in the form of services and amenities.
‘We have declined to the point where our service levels are nil to where they should be for a city of 85,000 people,” Cantu said.
The mayor made it clear he doesn’t like the idea of his property taxes going up given he is on a fixed income. Cantu added there is no other solution to pay for more services. Cantu made it clear he is open to all possible solutions whether a sales tax, utility tax, parcel tax, or a CFD.
“I got elected mayor because people were unhappy . . . with the level of (city) services,” Cantu said.
against citywide CFD
The rest of the council agreed in concept with one glaring exception — they had absolutely no desire to impose a communitywide CFD.
Councilman Gary Singh said he would support a CFD that was assessed only on new development to pay for the general fund impacts they create such as the need for more police and fire personnel. That drew applause from the audience.
That was followed by council members Debby Moorhead, Jose Nuno and Dave Breitenbucher expressing the same sentiment basically popping the communitywide CFD trial balloon that Cantu launched.
Moorhead pointed out the city over the course of the first 30 years Great Wolf is up and running is expected to see $99 million pour into general fund coffers from room tax and sales tax collected at the 500-room indoor waterpark resort targeted to open mid-2020.
Moorhead said that anticipated revenue stream and other efforts the city is making to boost economic activity and in turn increase the collection from taxes already in place needs to factor into deciding what the city needs in additional revenue.
“People are choosing to move here,” Nuno said while adding “I do understand the mayor’s point.”
He added that he’d be open to a CFD on new development possibly for police and fire as home buyers have the choice as to whether they should move into homes with the added tax burden.
“Let’s put it out there and see what people want,” Nuno said of the survey.
Sales tax jump may
have some support
Some of those speaking against a communitywide CFD indicated they might consider supporting a sales tax increase depending upon exactly how it would be spent. They noted since Manteca is being molded into a destination city of sorts with the Great Wolf Lodge, Big League Dreams, Bass Pro Shops, and the city’s pursuit of a family entertainment zone that non-residents would be paying a sales tax that would reduce the burden for residents.
Parks & Recreation Director Kevin Fant, tasked with overseeing the community survey a consultant will perform that was originally commissioned to gauge the support for taxes to support $84 million in new recreational facilities before it morphed into a litmus test to determine the appetite people would have for new taxes to support things such as backlogged street maintenance and additional police officers, noted a half cent sales tax hike would generate $6.5 million and as full cent jump $13 million based on 2018 taxable sales.
Rick Jones, the government affairs director for the 2,800-member Central Valley Association of Realtors, said a better solution was for the city to step up its efforts to secure economic development by luring entities that can collect more sales and room taxes.
He also cautioned the council that tying more costs to owning a house will make housing even more unaffordable undermining an expressed council goal. Jones noted increased taxes also end up getting passed on to renters in the form of rent increases.
Jennifer Machado was among a number of existing homeowners that stressed an added property tax would make living in Manteca even less affordable than it is today.
“I hope they (the new people moving here) love Manteca as much as I have,” Machado said, adding increasing housing costs from maintenance to possible new taxes are making it tougher for her and others to continue living here.
Becky Meredith — a former city employee, longtime Manteca resident, and an administrator with 15 years of experience overseeing CFDs — questioned the validity of even asking for a CFD at this juncture.
She said the city needs to determine if they have the proper municipal staffing, assess existing operations, explore whether service levels should be adjusted, and take other steps before simply starting the ball rolling toward a potential new tax increase.
The city is moving forward with the survey with the goal of sometime in the coming weeks surveying 400 registered voters in Manteca. The responses to a series of questions being formulated will be used by the council to determine their next move.
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