Manteca’s firefighting ranks are now fully staffed for the first time since the start of the Great Recession in 2008.
Mayor Steve DeBrum made that announcement Wednesday at the Manteca Chamber of Commerce’s State of the City event at the transit center just days after three firefighters were officially sworn in during badge ceremonies.
What DeBrum didn’t mention was that the city not only managed to open its fourth fire station — on Lathrop Road west of Union Road — at the depth of the recession but they were able to absorb nine firefighters that the city originally hired using funding from a three-year federal grant.
That means financially the city’s revenue has been able to absorb nine new firefighting positions over the last 10 years.
The city would have been up to full staffing for the fire service earlier if it wasn’t for a number of positions vacated by retirements that posed a challenge to fill.
DeBrum also noted that seven new police officers have been officially brought on board in recent months in addition to the second community resource officer whose primary job is to address homeless issues as well as work with developing Neighborhood Watch efforts.
“Our city has gone above and beyond developing a comprehensive plan to fix ‘quality of life’ issues with compassion and care,” DeBrum told the gathering of more than 150 people. “Homeless is not a crime and we continually look for ways to assist with a hand up, not a hand out.”
He noted that in the previous week, the police department helped five homeless people get off of Manteca’s streets and back to relatives’ homes in Southern California.
In the past 19 months, Manteca’s homeless effort through the police department working with community groups has managed to get more than 200 homeless people “back with their families or into safe and effective homes and treatment facilities.”
Last month, the City Council authorized the hiring of Manteca’s 67th police with the goal of having them on the street by April.
When that happens and all authorized positions that are vacant are filled, Manteca Police will restore police staffing levels to 67 officers — what they were when the recession started.
The 2008-2009 city budget had funding for 83 sworn officers including 11 from the half cent public safety tax. However due to vacancies and lag time that has traditionally been built into the hiring system, Manteca never filled all 83 positions. The funding for those positions were consumed by overspending throughout the general fund with revenues plummeting due to the Great Recession with income exceeding expenditures as the city cannibalized reserves to balance the budget.
The city has concentrated on restoring reserves to 25 percent to provide a cushion against another downtown.
In the past when a new position was budgeted, the city typically waited until half way through the fiscal year before allowing departments to fill positions. The Great Recession’s impacts hit Manteca as 2008-2009 unfolded. By the 2011-2012 fiscal year the city had dropped to 55 sworn officers when 12 officers were laid off due to budget cuts.
It took Manteca seven years to restore the positions that were actually filled. They have yet, however, to match the 2008-2009 budget that allowed for 83 officers.
The budget — when looked at as a whole — also has other staffing deficiencies that the city has yet to recover from recession cutbacks such as the street crew that was slashed in half.
The spending plan for 2017-2018 has 66 sworn positions including 15 funding by the public safety tax. Manteca’s population in 2009 was just over 66,000 residents. Today Manteca is at 77,000. That is 11,000 more residents with 17 less authorized sworn police officers.
Cities typically aim for one officer per 1,000 residents. Using that yardstick, Manteca is short 11 officers.
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