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WR residents to trustees: Give us our money back or well sue
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A group of Weston Ranch residents are making an ultimatum to the school board.
Either Manteca Unified returns the Mello Roos money that was used to pay for projects outside of the scope of the Weston Ranch agreement put in place in 1990 and refund the surplus balance, or else it will become a legal matter.
Former Manteca Unified School District Trustee Dale Fritchen – who represented Weston Ranch before getting elected to the Stockton City Council – informed the board on Tuesday night during public comment that the group of homeowners that had raised concerns to them last month have contacted a lawyer and are willing to use that avenue to ensure that the money they’ve been paying of the last 26 years goes to where it is intended – and not to supplement other district projects like the group has alleged.
Manteca Unified administration has yet to comment on the claims.
According to Fritchen – who admitted that some of the instances where money was used in places it shouldn’t have been happened while he was on the board – the residents that have banded together are upset that after digging into records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request they discovered that they’ve technically been overcharged every year.
While the language, he said, clearly states that the debt service and associated fees should be divided by the number of taxpaying homeowners and have that be the annual assessment, the district has actually been collecting the maximum amount of money allowable regardless of how much is actually paid to the $30 million bond that was taken out to build new schools and improve existing ones when growth forced the upgrades.
They’re planning on taking their case to the San Joaquin County tax assessor.
Fritchen said that he plans on meeting with the official later this week, and depending on how that meeting goes, could end up leading to as many as 5,000 people from Weston Ranch independently filing challenges to the amount of money collected.
During his remarks he handed a letter addressed to the board and to the Superintendent outlining how the residents want the money that was spent on projects not listed on the original agreement – including nearly $11 million for the construction of the district’s new administrative complex – put back into the fund so that it can be used to pay off the remaining debt on the bond. As it currently sits, residents will be paying Mello Roos in Weston Ranch in perpetuity, even after the bond has been cleared.
“We don’t want to bog down the system, but we will if we have to,” Fritchen said about filing the thousands of challenges.
He also said that the group has an attorney, and will be seeking legal remedies if their demands aren’t met or addressed by the board.
Last month Fritchen dropped the bombshell after a quick look into the language of the Mello Roos agreement to determine whether the funding could be used to pay for athletic upgrades at Weston Ranch High School. What he discovered was that residents have overwhelmingly paid for the $30 million bond since it was taken out – by his accounting, $44 million has been collected yet less than $10 million has actually been applied to the account – but when trying to find where the money actually went, discovered that projects outside of Weston Ranch were in receipt of the money.
“A lot of that money was used to fund projects that weren’t authorized,” Fritchen alleged. “We’re seeking legal remedies to correct that.”
He’s also taking aim at board members that don’t step up and back the residents.
On top of creating a group that will ensure that the bond is paid down with the money that is owed, another group is being formed as an “educational” group to inform residents about those on the board that haven’t been supportive of their requests.