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Want better streets in Manteca? Then be willing to pay more in taxes
Streets

There are three things, assuming we are all honest with ourselves, we can all agree on.

Manteca’s existing streets need a lot of work.

It takes a lot of money to maintain said streets, money that Manteca doesn’t have enough of to go around.

We all hate the idea of paying more taxes

That is the backdrop for what could be a bold, definitive decision by the City Council elected in November to break the mold and to do the right thing when it comes to Manteca’s streets.

Before you start fist pumping and shout “it’s about time” there is no way with existing revenues that can be done without completely gutting funding for police, fire, parks, and general government for a year — that is every cent of the $40 million the city collects in a year that isn’t encumbered being spent only on road upkeep —  just to bring existing streets up to acceptable basic standards. It would also take an additional three or so years of diverting all general fund to new road projects already on the books that can’t be completely funded even if every cent collected from growth fees are spent for that purpose. 

This is the part where three things typically happen. Most of us either cross our arms and proclaim we pay enough taxes so therefore the cost should already be covered or else we starting accusing the city government of wasting money over the years.

Then there are those that can’t resist taking us down memory lane singing the tune “If I Had Been in Charge 20 Years Ago the Streets Would Have Been Paved in Gold by Now”.

This of course only paralyzes the people we elect to office not to make the necessary tough calls — in this case calling for new taxes — while promising everybody and their brother that the city will get the job done. Then, when they realize they really don’t have any good options, they then go into their “off to see the Wizard’” mode trying to find ways to pry money away from the state and federal government — the same state and federal government they repeatedly bash for raising taxes and spending too much money.

The unadulterated truth is streets deteriorate, they cost money — lots of money — to maintain and rehabilitate, and we haven’t been paying enough in taxes to cover the bill. Ignore the truth if you want or try to point fingers but that is it in a nutshell.

So how can this council make headway instead of just doing what their predecessors did which is essentially concede what revenue the city receives from its share of gas tax and local road maintenance funding via Measure K is all the city has to work with as they don’t want to raise the hackles of voters by essentially doing what has to be done. It’s essentially kicking the proverbial can down the road that is crumbling like blue cheese mixed with a Swiss cheese surface texture.

They can start with the easiest step which is stopping future bleeding.

First they need to essentially declare that there is a funding emergency and place a moratorium on approving maps for new subdivisions until they expand the community facilities districts put in place to cover ongoing costs for future homes being built to include street maintenance in addition to park and street maintenance upkeep, picking up the tab for common landscaping, as well as ongoing subdivision storm drainage maintenance costs.

Among the new projects that this can be applied to at this point are Griffin Park, Yosemite Greens, and the Wackerly annexation.

While this doesn’t address the issue of problems with existing street maintenance, it accomplishes two things. First it assures those that live in the new homes being built will have street maintenance addressed when the time comes basically because they are paying for it. 

It also means 12 plus years down the road there won’t be even more streets vying for the same pot of street maintenance money that is gleaned from gas tax and a small portion of the Measure K sales tax earmarked for local street maintenance 

Griffin Park along with the other two projects will account for 1,400 to 1,500 more homes. That is compatible with Del Webb at Woodbridge with 1,420 homes.

The city has pegged the first stage of needed pavement upkeep for those 18 lane miles of streets within Del Webb after 12 years as being $820,000. That translates into a $50 per charge a year for each home for a dozen years to cover the initial maintenance work that would be needed. A parcel tax indexed to construction inflation would make sure the flat parcel tax would be adjusted annually as needed to stay atop of costs.

As for existing homes, it will take even more courage on the part of the council. If there were a $90 per year parcel tax or a $7.50 per household utility tax that also comes to $90 annually for the expressed purpose of funding ongoing road maintenance projects the city it would generate $2.7 million a year. The tax — which would require approval of the voters to be implemented — would also need an inflation clause to factor in inflation increases each year. Combine that with existing sources and the city would have close to $5 million a year to spend on pavement maintenance.

At that point the city can start making headway.

It’s easy to talk the talk. It takes someone with courage and moxie to spell out the situation, put together a tax and spending plan that has guarantees built in like the Measure M sales tax for public safety and the countywide Measure K road and transportation tax, and then put it before the voters.

Let the people decide if they are willing to tax themselves more to address their expressed concerns about street conditions.

Not wanting to sell the current council short as being more of the same, but unless they come up with new revenue sources all the council would be doing is what their  predecessors did which is offering no solutions of any consequence to the problem of street upkeep that will make much of a difference.

They need to at least address the new subdivisions so down the road those streets can be kept up without having to take away from the pool of money for existing streets.

And they really should give voters a choice of what they want to see — either adopting and paying a tax or basically saying they accept the current snail’s pace of street maintenance as well as driving on deteriorating roads.

The truth can be hard to swallow but there is no way around it — we need to collect more taxes to address city streets issues that get worse with each passing year.

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 dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.