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So what happened to all of the City of Mantecas money?
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Where has the money gone?

It is the incessant demand of the Greek chorus as they slam local government ripping into civic leaders for cutting back on staffing and services.

I’ll tell you where it went. It’s in my pocket - and that of a good number of other taxpayers.

Cities, for the most part, live and die on property and sales tax. And property taxes - contrary to popular belief - do not come close to paying for service such as police, fire and parks that a typical household creates a demand for unless the home is of significant value such as in excess of $400,000. A property tax bill on such a house is $4,000 but only about 12 percent - or $480 - makes its way to the City of Manteca. The bulk goes to Sacramento. For general fund services such a public safety, streets, and parks it costs about $470 per capita in Manteca.

The previous owner of the home the bank so graciously allowed me to buy was taxed with the value being at $260,000 which meant a $2,600 annual tax bill with the city getting $312.

I bought my house just over three years ago and paid $185,000 for it. That translated into a $1,850 property tax bill of which $222 went to the city. Last year the county assessor said my house was worth only $120,000 and my property tax dropped to $1,200 with $164 going to the city.

I’ve already received notice that the new assessment is $80,000. That means my tax bill this year will be $800 with the City of Manteca getting $96.

Compared to three years ago, I’ll soon be saving $650 a year in property taxes while the city is getting $116 less a year.

Even so, I am still paying more than a number of my neighbors who bought their homes 30 or so years ago. I have no beef with that. Proposition 13 - at least for residential property - made sense as it allowed those people who stayed put to have a relatively reasonable cap on their expenses especially when they retire. The way it was before if a home within two blocks sold for $500,000 and they had paid $15,000 for their homes, their taxes would have been raised to match the most recent sale.

Cities -- including Manteca - had their general funds swelled by the housing boom that we now know was overextended by mortgage shenanigans. Cities collect fees off growth to fund some departments but more importantly property values were skyrocketing each time a transaction closed. The city got the money as values went up and is losing the money now that values have dropped.

Perhaps the worst thing about the “where’d the money go” crowd is that very few of them were demanding that the city not increase spending during the go-go times. They may have delivered a barb or two about some expenses they didn’t like but if it came to something near and dear to them - whether it was a library or a neighborhood park project - they wanted the city to spend money.

I’m not exactly wild about paying taxes but if you want services you’ve got to pay for them. What I do like about this entire chapter in local government -and even school districts to a degree - is that the shrinking revenue made leaders think of creative and more efficient ways to deliver services as well as to prioritize spending in earnest. Hopefully such thrift and efficiency doesn’t disappear when money starts coming back to government coffers. I hold little hope of that, though, since already with news that state revenues are on the upswing some have already started talking about spending more money and rolling out new programs. It would be nice to stabilize what we have first and get state debt under control as well as future pension costs.

So where has the money gone?

Ask your neighbors specifically those who have bought houses within the past seven years or so.