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Threats mar tax debate
Weston Ranch taxes may be lowered
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Ever since Dale Fritchen raised the issue that Weston Ranch residents have been paying far more in Mello-Roos property taxes than they’ve been getting in return, tensions surrounding the issue have been high.
And last month local law enforcement was informally notified after comments on a private Facebook thread were considered by some officials to be threatening towards Superintendent Jason Messer and Manteca Unified Board President Deborah Romero.
But all of that could be a thing of the past tonight if the Manteca Unified Board of Education chooses to approve a compromise that would lower the amount of money that’s assessed annually on residents and redistribute some of the money that has been held in reserves to help pay off the existing bonds ahead of schedule.
Tonight the Manteca Unified school board will decide on how to proceed with the Mello-Roos measure after an informal agreement between district staff and concerned residents that would lead to the dropping of the petition that would put the Mello-Roos matter on an upcoming ballot was struck over the course of last week.
The meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m., will take place at the Manteca Unified Administrative Complex located at 2271. W. Louise Ave.
If the board approves the measures that were discussed between Messer and Fritchen in a meeting last week, Fritchen said, he would drop his pursuit of forcing a vote on the matter and likely spare both sides from incurring legal costs that would stem from litigation.
“We didn’t get everything that we were asking for, but that’s how these things happen sometimes – you have to be willing to compromise on certain things,” Fritchen said. “The important thing is that if the board approves this it’ll save Weston Ranch residents a lot of money and put this issue to rest so while I wouldn’t call this a victory, it’s something that we can live with.”
By his estimates, if the board approves the series of options that will be in front of them, Weston Ranch homeowners will be spared from over $30 million in assessments thanks to the rate reduction.
Fritchen, who has doggedly pursued this ever since he discovered that the district had used Mello-Roos funds collected from Weston Ranch residents – which are supposed to be earmarked for certain projects that were on a list that was approved at the time of the tax’s formation – for other projects, said that even though he’s willing to abandon his effort to seek legal remedies and force the matter before voters if this compromise is struck, there are people in Weston Ranch that are beyond upset at how the entire ordeal has been handled.
The district has been relatively quiet in responding to charges other than to say that what they did was within the parameters of the law, and have brought in a variety of lawyers and experts to examine the practices and make recommendations about how to move forward.
But according to Fritchen, some in the Weston Ranch community feel like Manteca Unified has left them behind and admitted that discussions have been had where residents have expressed the desire to possible secede from Manteca Unified School District and create an independent entity.
Easing those tensions moving forward, Fritchen said, would be the best course of action for everybody involved to prevent what has become a bad situation from deteriorating into something that’s even worse.
“I think that after tomorrow it would be good for the district in some ways to reach out and to try and come up with a way to solve this,” Fritchen said. “There’s a perception that this community doesn’t matter to the district and it’s hard for anybody to move forward when people are as upset as they are about how things have worked out to this point.”
A district official confirmed on Monday that the police had been notified after a series of charged Facebook comments in response to Fritchen’s update on the matter appeared on the social media site last month.
“They are stealing our money! 150 years ago the people would have marched down there and hauled their asses outside and strung them up for this,” one commented posted in response to Fritchen’s update. “If they do not know right from wrong any better than this, then they have no business being involved in the education of our children. Messer and the Board President should be terminated immediately.”