The City of Modesto has started an effort to annex the small unincorporated town of Salida. In doing so, the citizens of Salida will be forced to decide their town’s future. They have three basic options. They can annex to the City of Modesto, incorporate as their own city, or leave themselves unincorporated.
The Annexation Option
If Salida annexes to the City of Modesto, residents will get the advantage of improved services provided by the larger city. They will gain the representation of one city councilmember, John Gunderson. However, they will lose the services of the Salida Municipal Advisory Committee. They will be ruled by the Modesto City Hall rather than by the Stanislaus County Supervisors.
Annexation would bring Salida under the Modesto General Plan, which has a smaller urban development footprint than would exist under the current Salida planning area or under the general plan that Salida would have if it incorporates. Ironically, those who want to preserve farm land around the Salida area are best served by annexation to the City of Modesto despite Modesto’s history of urban sprawl.
The reason Salidans are reluctant about annexing is that they are worried that taxes will go up. There are utility taxes, but property taxes would stay the same. There are no Modesto city sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes or excise taxes. Furthermore, an improvement of services would be realized. Thus, any increase in taxes or fees would be compensated by mproved services.
The Incorporation Option
If Salida incorporates, citizens of the town would put themselves in the best position for self-governance. They would have control over their destiny rather than rely on Modesto City or Stanislaus County government to make decisions for them. Salidans could determine their own levels of service, contract with Modesto or Stanislaus County for police services, and control urban growth.
The one big question mark is how incorporation would affect the existing growth blue print under the Salida Plan. An effort would be needed to change the growth plan to a smaller area. A new city leadership could expect opposition from developers and landowners within the current Salida Plan area.
Incorporation is not likely to have an impact on taxes or fees unless the new city decides to increase services or if one of its service providers increases the fees charged. Due to its small size, Salida can be run with a minimal bureaucracy.
The Status Quo Option
If Salidans decide to rebuff the City Modesto, not incorporate and keep their governance as it currently exists, they will remain under the political jurisdiction of Stanislaus County. They will have little say over growth of the community. Developers will continue to dominate expansion decisions. In the long run, the town will expand east to the Riverbank city limit and all farm land between the two communities will eventually disappear.
Stanislaus County will continue to decide the level of service and may raise fees at will. Since 4 of the 5 members of the Board of Supervisors are not accountable to the voters of Salida, voters will continue to be powerless to stop whatever decisions the County may make. When budgets are cut, the County can cut service to Salida at will.
While the citizens of Salida may think that the status quo is the best option, they need to decide what controlling their own destiny is worth.