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Bonus bucks & city dependency on homes
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

The recent news article regarding bonus bucks was enlightening.  The article highlighted the umbilical cord between the municipal budget and service levels and new homes, and identified the close relationship between the city council, administration, and the new home industry; and consequently the instability of the bookkeeping system at city hall - simply stated, as the marketability of new homes goes, so goes the municipal budget and community service levels.

Years ago the bonus bucks program was initiated because city hall was not collecting enough revenue to offset the costs of services or fund community amenities; a need made worst with each new home constructed.  The fee was not set as needed to offset the costs of services; it was instead set on a negotiated settlement based on what the developers would accept.  One of the factors considered was the effect to the marketability of new homes, or in other words, what the developers thought was affordable to the new home buyers.  The negotiation process effectively determined how much the developers would pay and how much of the growing deficit the existing and new residents of the community would absorb.  Suspension of the bonus bucks program two years ago accomplished two things.  One, the developers received another break.  And, two, the residents of this community have been assigned with yet another fiscal burden with no improvement in service levels.

Another like situation is the Public Facilities Implementation Program, or the PFIP, as commonly identified.  The PFIP was initiated decades ago in order to financially respond to the growing costs of installing, expanding, and maintaining needed infrastructure systems (sewer, water, storm drainage, roadways, etc) as the community expands over time.  This program was also negotiated with the developers under the same premise and conditions as that with the bonus bucks program, except the PFIP is based on much larger dollars.  Along the way, breaks were given in one form or the other, but with the same consequence, the residents picked up the difference.  Recent efforts to update the PFIP have involved new “negotiations” and consideration of the current economy, not what are the actual costs associated with the infrastructure needs. 

Frankly, the city council and administration need to turn their calculator right-side-up in order to stabilize the municipal bookkeeping system in Manteca.  The ongoing paternal relationship between the municipal budget and the development community facilitates that when the home market industry hiccups every eight to ten years we must lay off public safety people.  It makes more sense to collect and to require fees and improvements up front so that the community can rely on the needed funds today and to plan for the long term, instead of continuing to fall behind and/or the residents picking up the loss.

And to those that profess (Council, administration, and developers) jobs, jobs, and jobs, and that there is little or no connection between development fees, deferred improvements, new home prices, RDA, sewer allocations, the deteriorating streets in Manteca, the downtown, the library, city staffing, and so on, please do your history.  Again, I am not suggesting that we close the door to new development; but, unless city hall operates under a different set of priorities, Manteca will continue to fall behind servicing the needs of the existing community and maintaining desired service levels.

To set the record straight, people move to Manteca because it is a great town to live in and to raise families, not because the developers have penciled out the most marketable price.  We also need to keep in mind that the original need for the bonus bucks has not gone away.

Benjamin Cantu
June 3, 2011