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Contends sleight of hand with Measure M tax
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin

The B-side of the news article highlighting Measure M saving four police officer jobs should note that we are still eight (or more) short of the number of police officers for which the residents of Manteca approved the half cent sales tax increase; and, that another five to seven public safety people will be laid off soon.

Since Measure M revenue is tied to the economy, as the economy (sales tax revenue) declines one would think the number of Measure M funded officers would be reduced accordingly, while the remaining non-Measure M funded officers are less affected.  However, based on city hall’s system of fiscal management it is necessary to lay off non-Measure M funded officers when attempting to balance the budget.  

While the number of police officers will eventually increase over time as the economy improves, my comments focus on the lack of transparency and question of why it is necessary to use federal grants and special sales tax revenue to fund or to supplement public safety in Manteca.  Why are there insufficient funds available under normal circumstances?  Blaming the current recession (or the state) is not the answer because we have been down that road during the three previous recessions.  Why is it that in the past forty years, each reelected administration in Manteca ignores history and simply follows the old school pattern of governance and budgeting, and then is astonished when there are no more funds in the checkbook?

The slight-of-hand of the Measure M revenue stream and the lack of funds to maintain neighborhood parks as a community responsibility (as highlighted in the recent news headline) are only two examples of the detachment between service levels and fiscal management in this community.  There is a disjoint between revenue and service, and this gap continues to grow annually because appropriate revenue to offset the desired levels of service is not being generated; and, to make matters worse, the funds required to respond to the fiscal and material impacts that occur decades after new development is not being assessed as well.  

Let me give you one example.  The streets in the northwest sector of the older community have been showing wear for decades, but due to lack of funds only a thin sheet of fiber and oil is applied as stop-gap maintenance measure.  Since the neighborhood is fully developed one would think that only minor maintenance is necessary.  But that is not the case, because increased traffic generated by an expanding community and new development spills-over into the neighborhood due to a lagging community-wide roadway system.  Under normal circumstances, revenue needed to offset the neighborhood maintenance is supposed to come from neighborhood related revenue (sales tax associated with the residents and property tax increment associated with the value of the properties.)  However, for decades the city council has instead redirected the neighborhood’s revenue stream towards new development on the edge of the community in hopes of generating the needed extra revenue.

This one example is merely the tip of a systemic problem that needs to be addressed today or the existing community will continue to bear the fiscal burden for decades for the concessions and the deferments and the future impacts of today’s new development municipal investments.  

I am not professing that we close the door to new development.  I am merely pointing out that new development needs to pay its way and reminding the city council, “Service to whom.”

Benjamin Cantu
May 19, 2011

Editor’s note: The Measure M language the city put forth in the election projected - based on revenues at the time - that the city would be able to hire 15 police officers and 15 firefighters with Measure M receipts by June 10, 2010. Due to a drop-off in retail sales, the city has the revenue at the time to pay for 11 police officers and 12 firefighters leaving them short not eight officers but four officers and short three firefighters solely in terms of the Measure M projection.