Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I had a chuckle on Monday as I read the Bulletin’s headline, “Bonus bucks for fire station? New homes could solve funding dilemma.” My first thought was, here we go again.
Manteca has been through four economic recessions since the seventies, and for each recession city hall’s recovery process has not altered. Consequently when the next recession comes (in eight to ten years) the Council will be scratching their heads asking why and how to escape the financial problem. Staff on the other hand, who has managed through previous recessions, will simply start once again down the same old “zero base” budgeting on their way to the next recession. The entire process brings to mind the ups and downs of a roller coaster that starts and ends at the same place.
The coined phrase “Bonus Bucks” is a troubling misnomer. These funds were designed specifically to help fund missing community amenities, not for capital improvement projects.
Bonus bucks are now collected from each new home in order to supplement the municipal budget, because the budget routinely falls short of providing for the public and service needs of the community. Additionally, the bonus bucks dollar amount (or fee) is a randomly arrived number; no financial analysis was prepared to determine the actual fiscal impact of each new home on the existing community and the service levels. Worse yet, over time city hall’s money managers have come to rely on bonus bucks to balance the budget and to respond to emergencies.
Finally, there is something inherently wrong when a community of 75,000 must rely on “bonus bucks” to construct a fire station. For decades city hall’s characteristic money management has forced existing community residents to endure reduced public safety and service levels until a new fire station can be afforded for new development. While other more progressive communities require developers to build the fire station up front as part of their new development, Manteca continues to siphon funds from the existing residents for a new development fire station, staffing and equipment.
The true dilemma is why the Council continues to manage municipal funds and budgeting utilizing the developer initiated side-step practice of “Bonus Bucks”. The truth is bonus bucks was and is a loss leader strategy that enhances the profitability of new homes.