Reporting Andrea Menniti
STOCKTON (CBS13) – A plan to raise Stockton’s sales tax is stirring up debate between the mayor and city manager.
Mayor Anthony Silva says the money raised will go to hire more police officers, but City Manager Bob Deis says raising the sales tax is a bad idea for many reasons.
The same firm that analyzed the city’s finances before bankruptcy took a look at the mayor’s tax plan and says it’s flawed.
In a memo addressed to the city council and the mayor, Deis recommends leaders “vigorously oppose” Silva’s proposed tax measure, claiming the plan would put the city in a catch 22 position.
“It actually forces more expenditures on the general fund than we have now,” said Deis.
He also says if the city went along with the proposed tax increase to hire 100 new police officers, it could decimate all other general fund departments — except police and fire — by making cuts up to 38 percent.
The memo also claims the plan would create two city managers, let felons out of jail and harm the city’s bankruptcy exit plan negotiations with creditors.
“How can we be negotiating in good faith at the same time talking about a tax increase where non of it can go toward any creditors whatsoever,” said Deis.
Silva unveiled his tax plan last week and says the half cent sales tax hike would generate $18 million a year for public safety.
The independent analysis says the ballot measure doesn’t cover costs that come along with hiring police officers, like overtime, cruisers, and supplies.
Despite the findings, the Stockton Police Officers’ Association urges the council to not shoot down the plan.
Tuesday’s city council meeting was packed and many in the room supported the mayor’s proposal to raise taxes to add more officers.
“I worry about safety; I worry about safety everyday,” said one attendee.
“I support a tax that doesn’t go in the general fund. I want a dedicated tax,” said another.
If passed by a 2/3′s majority, supporters say the mayor’s tax could raise an extra $18 million to help fight Stockton’s crime rate.
“I cannot support anything about raising more taxes when you are getting a quarter percent out of me right now, that we passed for policemen and you haven’t hired one,” a concerned citizen said at the meeting.
Others are concerned the mayor is being unfairly criticized for his out-of-the-box thinking –including former Councilman Dale Fritchen.
“They are bullying the mayor to not go forward with whatever his proposal is and I think that’s wrong,” he said.
Regardless of what happens, many are just asking the council to stop their political infighting that they see as creating a barrier to better and safer streets.
“You ought to be able to get along with one another. If it was within my power, as a minister, I would make you all stand up and hug each other,” said one man.
No vote was scheduled during Tuesday meeting on the issue.