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Eight dirty little secrets about Manteca & city funding
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Ready for to hear a couple of dirty little secrets?

1. The current Manteca City Council isn’t exactly anti-police or anti-firefighters. In fact, you could argue they are overtly pro-police and pro-firefighters given the fact four of the five sitting members - Debby Moorhead wasn’t in office at the time - gave all of Manteca’s public safety workers as well as other municipal workers fairly substantial pay hikes. Those pay hikes brought their compensation in line with other cities that are in stronger financial positions due to a much deeper and varied sources of tax revenues such as Pleasanton.

2. Taxpayers in general haven’t been paying for the level of service we’ve been receiving for a number of years. Growth has and it has nothing to do with the fact that new homeowners, for awhile, were paying taxes on new homes that were selling from between $480,000 and $780,000. It has everything to do with the infamous bonus bucks ranging from $7,000 to $13,000 per home that were collected from developers in exchange for sewer uncertainty.

Ben Cantu, who was an unsuccessful mayoral candidate in the last go around, is correct in noting development fees collected for a specific purpose in many cases were insufficient for years. But new home buyers have paid handsomely through the cost of bonus bucks collapsed into the sale price they then had to finance at 7 percent over 30 years. Bonus bucks were used to avoid massive city layoffs for several years.

3. While the ratio of firefighters and police per 1,000 residents is down from the early 1980s when Manteca went through its last major revenue crunch, the actual numbers are up. But in the case of other city departments such as street maintenance the actual numbers are down even though the number of street miles that need maintenance for everything from road surface to street lights is up by more than 30 percent. Park upkeep is another area where Manteca has always been razor thin staffing.

4. The City Council per se has not raised taxes in the last 20 years but they have cut them. The $2.35 a month utility tax that was dropped on municipal water, sewer, and garbage bills in 2001 would be bringing in more than $1 million annually if it were still in place today. As far as sewer, water, and garbage bills that haven’t gone up for the past two years, those under state law aren’t taxes but users’ fees. You pay for the service that you use, and the fees can only be used for the purpose they are collected. The half cent public safety tax was put in place by the voters and not the council.

5. Online retailers don’t collect sales tax which reduces the ability of local, county, and state governments to provide services. A Wall Street Journal survey of several items bought via online sites such as Amazon and at brick and mortar retailers such as Best Buy showed the difference in prices charges where almost exactly the amount of sales tax a state collected.

6. Government services cost money. A typical public safety employee costs the city $150,000 a year once pay, health benefits, and pensions factor into the equation. In some instances benefits cost 50 percent of a public safety worker’s salary due to early retirement and guaranteed levels of retirement pay. And - just like other pension funds for other municipal workers - that is unsustainable.

7. Contrary to what some may think, Manteca’s police and firefighters are among the best when it comes to doing their jobs if you use hardcore statistics such as the FBI crime rate and fire losses and saving of lives. The decision to compensate them in good times to be comparable -and sometimes better - than other communities was justified and deserved at the time.

8. This country is mired in a sluggish economy that is impacting everyone working for a living from a farm worker to a truck driver to a police officer to a firefighter. People have lost jobs and have had pay and/or work hours reduced.

There is now a small, but growing number of economists who are saying it could take 15 years to completely shake the toxins much like in Japan after the real estate bubble there exploded in the early 1980s. That’s why there are no quick fixes such as short-term borrowing that - even if the city could obtain the money - it would not be wise to do since it would be grossly irresponsible to take on debt load that couldn’t be repaid without further cutting into services in following years.