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Myths vs Facts: The truth about Lathrop-Manteca Fire District
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LATHROP – Many residents in the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District geographical jurisdiction believe that the district receives money from the City of Manteca’s sales tax measure established about four years ago.

That erroneous belief was just one of the glaring discoveries unearthed by the survey conducted last month by consultants contracted by the fire district to see what chances the proposed parcel tax measure that will be on the ballot in the November elections has of being approved by two-thirds of the voters living in the district.

The measure is a last-ditch effort to secure direly needed funding to keep the district’s remaining three fire stations open. The newest station built just four years ago at River Islands Parkway in the Mossdale Landing area to the tune of about $4 million was closed three months ago when the $1.1 million grant from the city to keep it open ended with no additional money coming in. That closure resulted in the layoff of six firefighters.          
Below are some of the other myths that the survey brought to the surface.

: The City of Lathrop and the City of Manteca provide district residents fire and emergency response services. Nearly half of the 350 surveyed are unaware that the fire district provides them fire and emergency response services. Twenty-five percent of the survey responders said they believe it was the incorporated City of Lathrop providing these services, while 15 percent believe the service provider is the City of Manteca Fire Department.

:  The Manteca Fire Department serves the residents of Manteca alone and receives its funding from the city. However, there exists a mutual-response relationship between the two agencies – as with other fire agencies – that kicks in during emergencies.

: The Lathrop-Manteca Fire District includes the incorporated City of Manteca. That is the belief expressed by 65 percent of those surveyed, while 16 percent said they did not know.

: The City of Manteca is not part of the LMFD’s geographical jurisdiction, only the rural areas of Manteca. To better understand this distinction is to explain the historical background of the fire district.

In 1936, the Lathrop-Manteca Rural County Fire Protection District was established to provide fire protection for the township of Lathrop, rural Lathrop and rural Manteca. It evolved from the Manteca Rural Fire Department which was an all-volunteer organization based in Manteca near the old El Rey Theater. To provide protection for the Lathrop area, this department loaned a fire engine to the Lathrop community. It was then decided to establish the Manteca-Lathrop Rural department and build three fire stations. Since 1936, the district has evolved into a pro-active fire district covering 100 square miles including the City of Lathrop which was incorporated in 1989. Neighboring fire districts include the French Camp Fire District to the north, the City of Ripon Fire Department to the south, and the Montezuma Fire District and City of Manteca Fire Department to the east.

The Lathrop-Manteca Fire District has been experiencing dramatic changes since it was initially formed. Initially, more than 90 percent of their area of responsibility was farm land, and the balance was in the unincorporated community of Lathrop. The geographical breakdown resulting from the rapid growth that has taken place is not available at press time. However, the foregoing historical background was provided by Louie Tallerico of Tallerico Vineyards LLC of French Camp.

MYTH 4: Local residents and businesses currently pay a special tax dedicated to the LMFD. 48 percent believed that’s the case, while 42 percent said they don’t know.

FACT: The majority of the district’s funds come from property taxes (57 percent); to a lesser degree from property assessment fees (40 percent), and to a much lesser degree, from plan check fees and fire inspection fees.

: The district receives funds from the Manteca sales tax – 54 percent of those surveyed said.

: The district does NOT receive a cent from Manteca’s sales tax.

Other facts about the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District provided by the consultants contracted by the fire district:

#1: The current special assessment that is providing funds to operate the district was passed by over two-thirds of voters in 1982, when the fire district received only 1,100 calls per year. The fire district today receives 2,500 calls per year, so the 30-year-old and outdated formula used in the 1981 measure needs to be updated, recommended the Lew Edwards Group consulting firm.

: According to the American Heart Association, the brain starts to deteriorate five minutes after a person stops breathing. Without the benefits of the measure that is hoped to raise critically needed funds, the fire district will be forced to lay off firefighters and close one fire station, significantly increasing 9-1-1 emergency response times and relying more on local ambulance companies with response times ranging from 8 to 15 minutes, far longer than the recommended response time necessary to save lives. The proposed measure ensures that people suffering from heart attacks, strokes or other medical emergencies receive the immediate attention they need to survive.

: Arguments offered by those surveyed as to why they are against the measure:

• With the present economy in a major recession, now is not the time to increase taxes. Many working families are already having a hard time making ends meet.

• This measure would significantly raise taxes on farms and other businesses. We shouldn’t pass this tax increase at a time when we need to be encouraging local businesses and helping them create new jobs.

• The fire district should already have enough funding for vital services like fire and emergency medical services. They need to cut wasteful spending and reduce bureaucracy instead of raising taxes on hard-working local residents.

• An overwhelming majority (89 percent) believe that “we need well-trained, professional firefighters who are available 24/7 and volunteers should only be used to support our fully trained firefighters. Only eight percent said that “if money is tight, we should just revert to an all-volunteer firefighter force.” At the same time, up to four-fifths of those surveyed were convinced in the above statements.