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Measure M tax cant pay for more police & firefighters
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Don’t count on the Measure M public safety half cent sales tax receipts allowing Manteca to hire additional police or firefighters anytime soon.
The Measure M reserve — built up to nearly $4 million a year after voters approved the tax in 2006 and before actual hiring started — is expected to drop to $2.1 million by June 30.
Tax receipts have grown each year but the expenditures have risen faster.  Measure M will generate $5.5 million in sales tax receipts in the current fiscal year but expenditures will reach $6.1 million.
The status of the public safety tax fund was provided to the Manteca City Council by Finance Director Suzanne Mallory during Friday’s mid-year budget review conducted at the Manteca Transit Center.
Based on current trends, the reserve could be depleted by 2021 putting funding in jeopardy for some of the positions funded with the tax that covers both salary and benefits. Not helping the outlook is a significant spike in retirement costs for police officers and firefighters projected in the coming years.
For that reason any new sources of Measure M sales tax from new retail businesses will likely be used to build up the reserve to assure future funding for the 15 police officers and 15 firefighters positions currently hired from the fund.
On the flip side, the voters were promised that the tax would pay for at least 15 firefighters and 15 police officers. It is doing that.
To understand the impact of the tax of public safety in Manteca, 1 out of every 5 sworn police officers in the Manteca department are paid for with Measure M sales tax receipts. It plays an even larger role in the fire department where the tax accounts for roughly a third of all front-line personnel.
While those 30 positions are not in jeopardy in the foreseeable future, it does limit options the Manteca council has for the long-term viability of three police positions funded from the Public Safety Endowment Fund set up by several developers building new homes and six firefighters paid by a federal grant that expires Dec. 31.
The endowment started with $8.4 million from two housing projects. It is not being replenished. In 2011, two police officers were funded from the account. Based in 2011 costs and interest income the fund would have covered the costs of those two positions through 2040.
Four additional police positions to allow the restoration of the gang unit where charged off to the account starting four years ago. It was also tapped to allow the hiring of personnel as well as utilities and upkeep to the tune of $165,000 a year to initially open the Lathrop Road fire station.
The city has been working to absorb the endowment police positions into the general fund for the past three budget years. There are now three positions left that rely on endowment funding.
The immediate big challenge for the city is to determine how — or if — they can retain the six firefighter positions in the 2017-2018 budget.
For the next fiscal year the city would need funding of half the cost as the grant expires six months in the budget.
In one possible scenario based on staffing moves of the past two budget cycles assuming sales and property tax growth continues it is feasible that the six positions could be absorbed by the general fund over the next three to four years while keeping endowment funding inn place for police officers.
Then after absorbing the firefighters the three police endowment positions would need to be taken into the general fund.
While that scenario hasn’t been advanced by the city, it could amount to the best case scenario for not reducing the ranks of either department. But it would also mean Manteca could go five to six years without hiring additional police or firefighter positions.
To contact Dennis Wyatt email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com