Little Johnny is 8 years old.
And like a fairly significant amount of kids in the Family City he’s being raised by his grandparents.
It’s not easy being a parent when you’re 70 and the biggest part of your income is Social Security. But Papa and Nana are doing what they can to make sure Johnny goes down the right path in life.
They figured getting Johnny involved with youth soccer and Little League would provide a good channel for his excess energy and keep him away from gangs.
It was tight paying for Johnny to play on their budget but they figured it was worth it.
Then Johnny came home one afternoon with some bad news. The Family City Little League was either going to have to raise fees by $25 a player next year or else go to mandatory fundraising for parents. It was so they could pay a $5 an hour fee to use city-owned fields for practices and games. The sheet he had read and handed his grandparents talks about the need of the city to recover its costs.
Papa and Nana told Johnny they might not be able to afford that. They had just gotten a tax bill and the home they bought eight years ago after downsizing to a townhouse so they’d have room to raise three kids had just gone up 20 percent recouping lost value during the depth of the housing recession. Their property tax liability was up $40 a month.
Frustrated, Johnny — still clutching the Little League flyer — went out front to play, kicking bio-degradable food packaging as he went. (What were you expecting? Tin cans went the way of Leave it to Beaver in the 1960s.) As he gave the politically correct eco-container its third kick, Mr. Wilson next door noticed Johnny’s frustration.
MR. WILSON: “What’s the matter sport?”
JOHNNY: “I may not be able to play Little League next year because the city needs to recover costs.”
Johnny handed Mr. Wilson the flyer.
JOHNNY: “I don’t get it.”
MR. WILSON: “Get what, Johnny?”
JOHNNY: “Why the city has to recover costs to mow, trim and water the playing fields when Nana and Papa already pay taxes to the city to do that. They just said they’re paying more taxes and that’s why I may not be able to play ball next year.”
MR. WILSON: “Well, Johnny, the best I can tell from watching Manteca City Council meetings on Comcast 97 that they need all the Little Leagues and soccer groups in town to recover the city’s cost of having park facilities so they can pay a consultant $57,500 to redo the city website they just redid eight months ago and to brand the city.”
JOHNNY: “What’s branding mean?”
MR. WILSON: “They want people to know what the city does and for people to feel good about it.”
JOHNNY: “They take care of parks and stuff and people feel good about that. I can tell them that and they can use the $57,500 so Little Leagues and youth soccer kids’ parents can afford to pay for them to play ball. Besides with cost recovery isn’t the city paying for the work twice?”
MR. WILSON: “Well, if the city didn’t try to recover all of their costs of providing services they wouldn’t be able to hire consultants so they could afford to drive their kids to soccer practices in Atherton in 2017 Mercedes Benz GLA Class sedans.”
JOHNNY: “It’s not fair. Nana and Papa already pay taxes and the flyer said Manteca forever and forever didn’t charge youth groups for field rentals until last year.”
MR. WILSON: “Well, Johnny you see Manteca leaders say they have a 25 percent general fund reserve of $8 million and cost recovery is a way they can get that.”
JOHNNY: “But I was listening in as my grandparents were watching a council meeting on Comcast 97 a few months ago. The council said they didn’t want the people building new houses to have to pay 100 percent of the city’s cost recovery cost. Why are kids different? And besides my Papa says we’re blessed to have one month’s money for living in a savings account because a lot of people don’t even have that.”
MR. WLSON: “Johnny, the city is recovering $7,000 from your Little League. Without it Manteca would only have a $7,999,300 reserve and that would be a step away from full-blown bankruptcy.”
JOHNNY: “I don’t get it. Our teacher says 60 percent of the students in our schools qualify for free or reduced meals because their families are struggling financially. So how come the city waives fees for the Pumpkin Fair and Manteca Chamber of Commerce Christmas parade and not for kids? Between the two of them they waived enough charges that it’s the same amount they’re cost recovering from Little League.”
MR. WILSON: By the way Johnny, what did I tell you about not being politically correct? It’s a holiday parade.”
JOHNNY: “But if cost recovery is so important why does the city waive fees for anyone?”
MR. WILSON: “Well, they have a budget item they can take money from to do that.”
JOHNNY: “I don’t get it.”
MR. WLSON: “Get what Johnny?”
JOHNNY: “The council always says they want to put kids first.”
MR. WILSON: “Perhaps we should call up a council member and suggest they brand Manteca as “The Dysfunctional Family City.”
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.