Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What would annexation to Modesto mean for Salidans?

If you hear a blood-curdling scream coming from Salida anytime soon, that's just me the next time I hear someone say that "we have to wait for the study from Goodwin Consulting before we'll know what annexation means for Salida". That statement is intended to pacify us and is a fallacy. I will be crystal clear about this - THE FISCAL FEASIBILITY STUDY CURRENTLY BEING CONDUCTED BY GOODWIN CONSULTING IN SACRAMENTO IS NOT INTENDED TO TELL WHAT ANNEXATION WILL MEAN FOR SALIDANS. The purpose of the study as paid for by our tax dollars ($30,000 of county residents' tax dollars and double that amount for Modesto City residents since they are also county residents) is a FISCAL FEASIBILITY study for Stanislaus County and the City of Modesto to look at the costs associated with annexing Salida into Modesto.  

Due to the fact that there's a contingent of influential politicians in Modesto supporting the annexation, I quite expect that when the study is returned, discussed, and negotiated upon, that it will go before the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and Modesto City Council and be voted upon and approved. This process may even occur before the end of the year or in early 2013.  

Since the Goodwin study is NOT intended for informing Salidans what it would mean to be annexed into Modesto, I will share with you what I know it will mean for us - and that's more TAXES and more LAWS.

The Modesto politicians advocating annexation say the benefit for Salida being annexed is the increased services we'll receive as City of Modesto residents.
July 2012 MID bill of a 2251 sq ft Modesto home
But increased services comes at a price - AKA taxes. City of Modesto residents pay a user utility tax of 6% on utilities, cable, and landline phones. The amount of tax you pay is dependent upon the amounts of your monthly utility bills.  For most Salidans, the utility taxes may not pose much of a noticeable economic impact since they are spread among your utilities and might only add up to a few hundred dollars a year for most people. However, there are quite a few people in Salida like Connie Wright, where these additional taxes may create an undue and insufferable burden upon those struggling to make ends meet. Additionally, Salida is said to have one of the "highest tax rates in Stanislaus County" due to the many homes with Mello Roos taxes. So if you're a Salida homeowner with Mello Roos taxes on your home, you will get double taxation. At least through 2030 when most of the Mello Roos taxes in Salida are scheduled to end.

To me, annexation means a loss of freedoms that I currently enjoy. That loss of freedom would come through the adoption of Modesto's laws, otherwise known as ordinances.

For example, I don't have a tree in my front yard. We had the tree removed in 2000 because when the builder planted the trees in our neighborhood, they did not utilize a box to train the roots to grow downward which resulted in a shallow root system that was creating the risk of lifting the foundation of our house.  Our action to remove the tree was additionally justified last April when the same type of tree with a shallow root system toppled onto my neighbor's house after heavy winds and rain. Modesto has an ordinance (Title 12, Chapter 5 of the Modesto Municipal Code) that requires at least one tree per residential lot. Several years ago, a friend who lives in Modesto cut down the tree in her front yard that she didn't want and City of Modesto workers came by and planted a new one. Recently I've heard that Modesto has temporarily suspended their tree-planting program during these tough economic times, but either way, I currently have the freedom to choose what's planted in my front yard and I'm not eager to give that up.

Another loss of freedom that would affect many Salidans is Modesto's ordinance regarding portable basketball hoops placed on the street or sidewalk which are subject to up to a $500 fine. On one of our nightly one mile walks through our neighborhood, my husband and I counted $6,000 worth of fines. Modesto could rack up quite a payload of fines since nearly every residential street and cul-de-sac in Salida has at least one if not more of these portable basketball hoops. While I acknowledge that many Salidans may be in favor of having the hoops removed from streets and sidewalks as they can be inconvenient to walk or park around, I want you to think about this: with a nation that sees higher rates among obesity from sedentary youth who spend hours on video games instead of exercising, isn't this inconvenience a small price to pay for the health benefits that basketball gives to our neighbor's children? Now I realize that an argument may be made in favor of moving the hoops to the driveway but let me share with you the disadvantage of this idea. Nearly all the residences in Salida have sloping driveways, and its much more difficult to play basketball on a slope than it is on an even surface.

A few more loss of freedoms for Salidans would be Modesto's limit on dogs and yard sales which are both at 2. Two dogs per household and two yard sales per year. I shudder to think how many hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs would flood the area's animal shelters if Modesto enforced that ordinance in Salida! Additionally, while most Salidans likely do not have more than two yard sales a year, there are some who do as a means of supplementing their income.

I've only covered a few but there are many more ordinances that would apply to us if we become residents of Modesto which you can view on the City of Modesto Municode website. As it generally goes, Modesto does not have a code enforcement detail roaming the streets looking to cite people for ordinance infractions. They don't have the staff or the funds for such an undertaking. However, all it takes is for you to have a disagreement with or upset one of your neighbors who then decides to retaliate upon you by turning you in to city code enforcement as happened last May to a Modesto couple.

For the nearly twenty years that I've lived in Salida, I've enjoyed and appreciated the freedoms afforded us as county residents. And if the day ever arrives to where Salida can incorporate, I think Salida can do a better job than what's being offered by Modesto to maintain and continue the freedoms that's been a part of our lives as citizens of Salida.

NEXT POST: "Secrets of Salida"

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