Dave Tenney in the coming weeks or months — depending upon when the city gets around to finally approving the updated general plan — will be vindicated.
Tenney is the longtime Manteca businessman that former City Manager Miranda Lutzow blamed for defeating Measure Z, the one cent general sales tax increase Manteca voters rejected in November.
Lutzow went as far as openly criticizing Tenney, who owns Manteca Trailer & RV, for contending he had no skin in the game based on her contention Tenney did not reside within the city limits.
Today, just six months later, Lutzow, is 2,029 miles outside of Manteca’s city limits in eastern Canada and Tenney continues to faithfully collect sales tax that helps fund a wide variety of municipal services such as police and fire protection every time he sells an RV or an accessory.
Tenney bankrolled a low-key No on Z campaign emphasizing the timing was wrong, the pandemic had created a lot of economic uncertainty, and the city was rather vague about the need. As he noted on the No on Z website he would not be against a small tax increase for police and fire services or even a community center for kids.
Tonight at 6 p.m. a joint workshop is being conducted by the Manteca City Council and Manteca Planning Commission on the general plan update. Included is an economic analysis by BAE Urban Economics of the growth the updated general plan will allow.
Given the impassioned argument several elected leaders made concerning how we should heed the “virgin eyes” of experts such as new department heads and consultants on the city’s challenges, Manteca residents should pay heed to what the “virgin eyes” of BAE Urban Economics see.
Not only do they conclude growth will pay its way but it can cover shortfalls created by previous growth and current growth and still create an annual general fund surplus in excess of $17 million at complete buildout of the updated general plan.
And if you don’t want to wait around until Manteca reaches 200,000 residents, if growth stops after what is already approved or in the approval pipeline is built and we reach 114,000 residents new growth will expand the annual general fund surplus by $5.8 million.
That means those “virgin eyes” revered by Manteca Mayor Ben Cantu see no need for a tax increase to sustain current service levels. In fact, the “virgin eye” contend if 20 percent of the annual surplus growth creates is used to backfill previous shortfalls in general fund revenues that previous growth has created, Manteca will still be swimming in an extra $17 million each year to spend on municipal needs and desires.
Now someone on the council might say that BAE doesn’t firmly grasp the history and realities of Manteca. Such an argument would undermine their claims that “virgin eyes” on the city staff trump history and realities when it comes to downtown and traffic patterns on North Main Street.
By adopting the general plan update that the “virgin eyes” of the consulting firm analyzed for its fiscal impacts, the council will be embracing the notion new taxes aren’t needed* to maintain general fund services because growth will generate money cover existing deficiencies plus generate an extra $17 million annually the city could spend on paying for an aquatics center over multiple years, erecting bronze statues, or replacing sections of Airport Way that are not a truck route yet are being pulverized by trucks on a daily basis.
As for sales taxes restricted to specific spending, that is another ball game.
Add in other details that emerged after the election, and Tenney should be thanked profusely by voters who voted for Measure Z for all of the wrong reasons.
*Detail No. 1: Remember the October surprise? That was when the first wave of “virgin eyes” at city hall warned there might be a $70 million hole in the municipal budget.
In all fairness to the fresh set of eyes in the finance department there was a whole lot of sloppy bookkeeping going on, the general ledger not being reconciled, bond funds not being drawn down to cover major capital improvement projects, and such uncovered.
If Measure Z had passed it would have given the city another $12 million annually they would have had no idea of how they were spending.
*Detail No. 2: The long overdue thorough examination of the city’s books by Interim Finance Director Stephanie Beauchaine revealed management at city hall has borrowed $20.4 million over the years from other accounts such as street maintenance to cover shortfalls in the water and sewer enterprise funds.
Not only does this money have to be repaid under the law but there are capital improvement projects as well as increased operational and maintenance costs going forward that needs to be covered.
To top that off the solid waste fund is headed toward deficit spending.
Given the amount of money we’re taking about and the number of service accounts, no one should be surprised if between the three enterprise accounts — sewer, wastewater, and solid wage collection — that residents will be facing $120 to $150 in annual rate increases likely to be phased in to a degree.
While it is not a tax per se, the hit in users’ fees would be universal and not up to how much money you spend or what you spend it in as sales tax is.
Had Measure Z passed, a typical household between sales tax and users fees for basic services would have been forking over another $200 a year at least to the city.
*Detail No. 3: Remember how we urged to vote for Measure Z so the economic uncertainty of the time would not create a massive budget shortfall and force a drastic cut in services?
Except for how COVID-19 protocols altered how most services were delivered, nothing was really cutback. And as far as revenues cratering and harming the city, the $15 million in federal coronavirus relief funds Manteca is receiving will cover shortfalls in revenues and then some causes by lockdown measures.
*Detail No. 4: The current council, much to its credit, appears to be taking steps so that going forward new growth pays for at least the shortfalls based on property and sales taxes it is creating to simply maintain current police and fire service levels. Given new growth is already picking up the tab in most cases for maintenance of their neighborhood parks and that public safety accounts for 62 cents of every $1 spent in the general fund, growth going forward will indeed almost pay its way.
But wait, you say. Didn’t “virgin eyes” as in the consultant last year the city hired to assess the Manteca Trails project declare growth wasn’t paying its way based on property and sales taxes each household will generate? And didn’t the “virgin eyes” provided by BAE analyze what financial data and taxes are in place to justify the general plan update as being as being advantageous for the city?
Maybe “virgin eyes” aren’t as reliable, thorough, or above the fray as some seem to contend they are especially when those “virgin eyes” affirm elected officials’ own perceptions whether it is what direction downtown should go or if Manteca should grow to 200,000 residents.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org