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Manteca budget reflects possible turnaround start
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The downward slide may be over.

When the Manteca City Council meets Tuesday they are expected to approve a $27,137,075 spending plan for day-to-day municipal services through June 30, 2013. It is a one percent increase in spending over last year. And it is the first time general fund spending has gone up in five years after peaking at $36,798,681 in 2007-08.

There is still a structural deficit - the act of spending more money than received in revenue during the fiscal year - of $1.43 million. But that is down from a structural deficit high of more than $6 million five years ago. Based on contract concessions, Manteca’s structural deficits will disappear within three years. And had the city not started cutting back four years ago, the structural deficit today would have been close to $4 million with the city probably facing bankruptcy instead of starting on the road to recovery.

That was before those contract concessions were made based on January 2011 projects.

Overall revenues in the budget as presented are expected to drop $230,760 from this fiscal year - the smallest retreat in five years - to $26,372,560. But that was based on the San Joaquin County Assessor’s Office projecting a 4 percent slide in property tax assessed value for 2012-13. On Friday, the assessor’s office released their final work and Manteca gained 0.01 percent meaning the $400,000 drop that was anticipated will be eliminated.

If that is the case, a four year trend of declining revenue will be reversed in the coming months.

General fund revenue was at a historic high of $32,270,080 in the 2007-08 fiscal years. The proposed budget reflects a $5.9 million decline or a 22.4 percent reduction in annual revenue from the peak fiscal year.

Sales tax - which is now the biggest source of general fund revenue at 33 percent - is expected to increase 4 percent. Property tax receipts are now expected to increase ever so slightly by 0.01 percent to reflect assessed property values of $4.5 billion that will translate into property tax receipts of almost $8.9 million. The increase in sales tax will make property tax the second largest source of general fund income. That is the first time ever that sales tax has displaced property tax as the city’s top source of revenue.

The overall city budget including all restricted accounts is $95.7 million including $13.6 million worth of capital improvement projects. None of the restricted funds can be used for day-to-day services such as police and fire or parks.

Part of the $1.4 million structured deficit is being covered with $440,685 in development agreement fees that are being used to keep all Development Services positions in place for one year.

The city did not think it would be wise to cut development staff just as CenterPoint and Austin Road Business Park - two major private sector job generating proposals - are preparing to move forward.

The staff won’t simply be sitting around waiting for work. Instead, the city is one of the few able to take advantage of the Smart Growth imitative that allows cities to essentially do one overall environmental study of various growth concerns such as air quality. That means once the city drafts and adopts Smart Growth policies with impact data and how to mitigate problems that can be used as a boilerplate of sorts.

That would mean the approval process for developments would be reduced plus redundant environmental work would be eliminated.

The goal is to speed up the approval process without comprising environmental issues to make Manteca more attractive to private sector concerns that want to build employment centers.

The City Council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.