Manteca Police will be adding at least one sworn officer to its ranks for the first time in three years.
The City Council during Thursday’ budget workshop directed staff to add a 66th sworn officer to the municipal spending plan that goes into effect July 1. Elected leaders also asked that a 67th officer be possibly added mid-year when an update is made on general fund revenue and spending trends.
Councilman Mike Morowit made the initial push for the additional officers.
“To me it isn’t right not to add officers as that is the number one complaint I hear from citizens that we need more police,” Morowit said Monday.
Historically the city councils in the past at budget time have deferred to the spending plan cobbled together by the municipal management team when it comes to general fund underwriting of police positions. Last year was the first time a council departed from such a stance in at least 28 years when Morowit pushed for funding to hire two community resource officers instead of just one to address citywide homeless issues. Then City Manager Karen McLaughlin initially nixed the second position because it would have cut into the 25 percent reserve set aside for the general fund.
The council instructed staff to fund two CRO positons. The budget ended up still having a 25 percent undesignated general fund reserve that is now pegged at $9,381,090 for the fiscal year starting July 1. Altogether there is $25.3 million set aside in various general fund reserves. The actual proposed budget for day-to-day operations for police, fire, parks, and streets next fiscal year is over $37 million.
Ironically, Manteca may end the current fiscal year on June 30 without spending a dime on the second CRO position. As often happens, the upper management didn’t allow the police department to start looking for a second CRO right away. When a candidate was finally found that fit the unique job tasks of dealing with the homeless he was hired and then abruptly resigned a week later. The department is now in the final stages of hopefully hiring the second CRO.
The impacts of the 66th officer may not be felt for some time. The department is in the process of trying to fill four police officer positions — two covered by the general fund and two covered by the half cent public safety tax. Then there is a fifth officer that is expected to retire soon.
The police command doesn’t intentionally delay hiring. For years the upper management style of the city has been to delay hiring new positons that are budgeted or those that become vacant so they can save money. Due to the process needed to screen candidates for law enforcement and do extensive background checks, once the green light is given then more months are added that the position remains vacant. Some cities allow police departments to start recruiting for officers once they are notified of a retirement. Given how the pension system works, that is typically known months in advance.
Assuming the city can fill all of the vacant and soon to be vacant positions within the next several months, the odds are the hiring of the 66th officer won’t cut into the $9.3 million undesignated reserve.
That’s because sales tax is trending above projections. At the same time Manteca Unified School District is upping their contribution to cover the cost of four police personnel assigned as school resource officers by $70,000 to more than $130,000. At one point before budget cuts hit the district, the schools were covering close to $240,000 of the tab for school resource officers.
By standard yardstick
Manteca is still 9 officers
short with 66 positions
Manteca has added almost 5,000 residents in the past five years.
The city’s police force in terms of sworn officers on the street has grown by just one position during the same time. Manteca — by the yardstick most jurisdictions use of one officer per 1,000 residents — is at least nine sworn officers short even with a 66th officer budgeted. That’s because the State Department of Finance puts Manteca’s population at 75,000.
The 2008-2009 city budget had funding for 83 sworn officers including 11 from the half cent public safety tax. The proposed spending plan for 2017-2018 has 65 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 75,000. That is 9,000 more residents with 18 less sworn police officers.
Manteca never actually had 83 sworn officers due to vacancies and lag time that has traditionally been built into the system. If new positions are budgeted, the city typically waits until half way through the fiscal year before allowing departments to fill positions. The Great Recession’s impacts hit Manteca as 2008-2009 unfolded.
The city dropped to 55 sworn officers in the 2011-2012 budget. That number jumped to 64 the following year thanks to the city being able to add four more positions funded by the Public Safety Tax to bring those positions to the current level of 15 as well as fund four additions positions from the Public Safety Endowment Fund to restore a four-officer gang suppression unit. The endowment fund is expected to dwindle down to $2.1 million by June 30. It does not have new funding flowing into it. The 2012-2013 budget had six police positions funded by the endowment fund. The city has been slowly transferring them back into the general fund as city revenues rebounded. The proposed budget plan shifts the remaining three police endowment funded positions into the general fund.
Police Chief Jodie Estarziau had requested four additional police officers plus other personnel but city management staff declined to fund that request.
What the City Council set in motion Thursday means two of those positions could be funded in the upcoming fiscal year.