Mayor Steve DeBrum is frustrated that the library roof is leaking yet the city is putting off repairs due to a backlog of work and no money identified to fix it.
He astutely points out what the city is doing is akin to a homeowner delaying what could be a $500 roof leak that — due to it not being addressed promptly — mushrooms into a $4,000 repair job.
Councilwoman Debby Moorhead is concerned the “small” issues — neighborhood speeding and maintenance along sections of the Tidewater Bikeway corridor is less than stellar — threatens to erode Manteca’s quality of life.
Councilman Richard Silverman — a fiscal conservative — wonders out loud whether the city is being penny wise and dollar foolish with its reserve policy.
Council members Mike Morowit and Gary Singh see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel where those “deals” the city made are finally going to start paying dividends. A year from now Costco sales tax receipts the city keeps will skyrocket $400,000 a year as the deal to bring the wholesale retailer to Manteca will have been fulfilled. At the same time within three years — if the hotel room tax is increased to 12% — the Great Wolf deal would bring in $2.4 million in general fund revenue to support city services.
Singh and Morowit — just like their counterparts — want to see increased city staffing to improve services in Manteca.
There’s an answer that will allow the council to address a good share of their concerns that takes their observations into consideration, accommodates the $700,000 in increased spending they already directed staff to incorporate into the upcoming budget, and not bust the budget or weaken the reserve strategy.
The answer lies in the property tax being collected from my home, that of my neighbors and a good share of the older segment of the community. The tax is the residual of the now defunct redevelopment agency tax. It represents the city’s share of the property tax revenue stream that was once committed 100 percent to the RDA and is not needed to meet remaining RDA obligations that are essentially bond debt repayment.
This is money had the RDA not been created would have gone to pay for day-to-day city services such as police, fire, and street maintenance. Better yet, it is a reoccurring source of funding.
The money is now being diverted into an economic revitalization fund. A change to the reserve policy proposed by City Manager Tim Ogden in March that the council tentatively embraced and directed staff to have the details brought back to them is up for possible adoption at the June 19 council meeting.
Ogden suggested capping the money flowing into the economic revitalization fund at $3 million and sending what comes in beyond that to undesignated reserves affording the council the ability to tap into that for items not budgeted that they want to see get done. Had the reserve policy as outlined been in place for this fiscal year the council would have had $1.4 million in discretionary funds to address many of the needs and wants they have been bringing up.
The tax stream being tapped is currently bringing in $1.2 million a year.
Given that Ogden is a different breed of city manager and stepped in after the economy has been rebounding, growth is hitting a newer level that appears more sustainable given Bay Area dynamics, and a number of deals the city made for economic growth are starting to bear fruit it isn’t too big of an assumption that the reserve policy changes he crafted were to address doing just what the council directed last week in adding $700,000 of expenditures to the upcoming budget. In other words, Ogden listened to his collective bosses, looked at the numbers, weighed the spirit and intent of council directions regrading reserves, took into account rising California Public Employee Retirement Systems contributions, and adhered to prudent fiscal responsibility tenets that include not squirreling away excessive money for the sake of doing so when it could cause major expenses down the road. The proposed reserve policy is the outcome of such a deliberate management approach.
Take away $700,000 from the undesignated reserves to cover council budget directives made last week and you have $700,000 left.
At the same time the city still has $3 million to access for economic revitalization.
As future money from the former RDA revenue stream comes in it would obviously backfill first any spending down of the economic revitalization reserve.
Even though it is reoccurring money you wouldn’t want the undesignated reserve to keep funding the third and fourth new police officers the council directed to add as well as park and public works personnel need to move projects forward. In time those costs can be incorporated into the budget given the fruit city deals are bearing. If something goes haywire the city can fall back on the former RDA funding so not to raise havoc with the budget.
That said the council should be comfortable dipping into the remaining $700,000 as the fiscal year unfolds.
One-time expenses makes sense such as the library roof repair or putting roundabouts in older neighborhoods as Ripon did to calm traffic.
The council — due to prudent management by Ogden and department heads as well as the foresight of previous councils in terms of economic deals they fashioned — has been handed the ability to start making inroads on a long list of wants and needs.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.