Ever since Stanislaus County Supervisors rammed through the “Salida Now” proposal in 2007, local citizens with good memories have feared the prime farmland around Salida will be lost either to commercial/industrial development or to housing, or both. “Salida Now” is a primary reason some citizens are reluctant to support incorporation for Salida. For those unfamiliar with the details, a good description of “Salida Now” is here. Below, Bruce Frohman provides an up-to-date context on the ongoing controversy surrounding Salida annexation and incorporation proposals.
When Stanislaus County allowed development of Salida, it created an urban area incapable of financial self- sufficiency. The cost for the County to provide public service to the area has exceeded tax revenues received for many years. The annual subsidy is in the millions of dollars. Stanislaus County would like the Salida to incorporate or be annexed by Modesto so that the subsidies can be ended.
The Salida Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) was created to give citizens a voice in determining community needs. Ms. Katherine Borges is a member of the MAC and provided me with some of the information used in this article via casual discussions that took place shortly after Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh announced Modesto’s intention to annex Salida.
Opposition to Annexation
While I served on the Modesto City Council from 1999-2003, an update of the General Plan was one of the major projects. During the update, I asked some residents of Salida whether they wanted to be annexed to the City of Modesto.
None of the Salidans I spoke with wanted to annex. They all thought annexation would cause their taxes to rise sharply.
I asked Modesto’s Department of Finance how much annexation would cost each Salida resident. The reply I received was surprising: nothing. Salidans pay the same taxes as Modestans. If Salida annexes, Modesto gets some of the tax revenue instead of the County.
When I mentioned what I was told by the Department of Finance, Salidans didn’t believe me. I was told that Modesto can’t be trusted, but no concrete reason was provided. These days, Salidans cite the negative stories appearing in the local newspaper as evidence that Modesto is a bad actor.
In reality, had Modesto annexed Salida, the additional tax revenue would not have covered the cost to provide services. This is because most of Salida is housing.
It wasn’t until the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors learned that new housing doesn’t generate enough tax revenue to pay for services that it adopted a policy of directing housing developments to the cities. This is why Salida hasn’t had much new home construction in more than a decade.
Stirring Up a Hornet’s Nest
When Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh proposed annexing Salida, he had no idea that the proposal would generate so much hostility. County Supervisor Terry Withrow, who was not familiar with Salidans’ opinion on the subject, originally backed Marsh’s proposal because it would enable the County to get rid of the financial burden of providing services to the urban area. He quickly backtracked when he realized that the proposal wouldn’t fly. Garrad Marsh thought that he was only hearing from a vocal minority and didn’t give up the idea until after a study confirmed widespread opposition.
What Salidans Really Want
Ask a resident of Salida what he wants from his government and the standard reply is to be left alone and no new taxes. Many Salidans don’t want to incorporate because they fear that another layer of government will result in higher taxes. They are content with leaving their community as it is, with Stanislaus County subsidizing their services.
When it comes to self-governance, opinions vary. No one in Salida wants to join behemoth Modesto. Salidans fear a decline in quality of life and higher taxes. The risks of annexation are greater than any potential gain. Modesto is cash strapped and cutting services, so where’s the benefit?
Many are content with the present set up with MAC and the County working together to provide an adequate quality of life within the community. There is a group of unknown size that wants to incorporate Salida so that Modesto will never be able to annex it.
The Pro-Incorporation Faction
Before Mayor Marsh gave up the push to annex Salida, I had a couple of telephone conversations with Ms. Borges about the Mayor’s efforts, and the pros and cons of annexation vs. incorporation.
During our conversation, Ms. Borges told me that she preferred incorporation and I encouraged her to seek it. Since some of the taxes I pay for Stanislaus County services go to subsidize Salida, I thought that incorporation would be a win-win. She could pay higher taxes to operate her own community in a manner she desires and the taxes I currently pay would be used more equitably throughout the county.
Ms. Borges told me that she was told by Stanislaus County that Salida can’t incorporate because it doesn’t have the tax base to maintain the current level of services. I understood her to say that Salida would need to build a large industrial park in order to raise enough taxes to fund services for an incorporated city and that she fully supports the Salida Plan.
Because the Salida Plan requires the taking of prime agricultural land, this solution does not seem reasonable to those who believe that preservation of farm land is the highest and best use of land surrounding Salida. I would rather see her services continue to be subsidized than allow the taking.
Saving Wood Colony
In addition to her duties on the Salida MAC, Ms. Borges has been a leader in the fight to protect Wood Colony from Modesto’s overtures. Given her stance on incorporation, I have wondered whether she is fighting to keep Wood Colony in agriculture or to keep out Modesto in order to save it for urban expansion by an incorporated Salida. As preposterous as this possibility may seem, absent limit lines for every urban area in Stanislaus County, anything is possible.
Assuming Ms. Borges is fighting for Wood Colony out of genuine altruism, there is no guarantee that someone else in Salida’s future won’t try to annex Wood Colony or parts of it. Some land speculators in Wood Colony are reportedly eager to cash out.
Stamp Out Sprawl: The Remedy for Keeping Salida’s Taxes Low?
In Part Two of this report, I explained how Stamp Out Sprawl (SOS) would make it easier for Salida to sprawl into a large urban area by taking farm land currently in Modesto’s sphere of influence. The sprawl would be a mega “Zoning for Dollars” scheme with the express purpose of enabling present Salida residents to keep their services without paying more taxes. The subsidy would be shifted from Stanislaus County to businesses that a newly incorporated Salida expects to attract.
If SOS is going to be used by developers to promote urban sprawl, then I don’t want any part of it. Some readers are saying to themselves that the scenario I have outlined would never happen. If you had told me that thousands of acres of nut trees would be planted during a drought, I would have said that would never happen. In Stanislaus County, ridiculous decisions are made with surprising frequency for short term financial gain and without thinking about long term consequences.
Katherine Borges says
Where do I even start with this? Really now Bruce, do your research better before you go and write an article that makes you look ignorant for not doing so. Some of this is easy stuff, like taxes. Would Salidans’ taxes go up if annexed into Modesto – YES! Modestoans pay a UUT (User Utility Tax) that we Salidans do not pay. You also pay a storm drain tax that we don’t have. You also pay more for your trash and sewer services and your businesses pay a mil tax that businesses in the county do not have.
Being a former Modesto City Councilman, I’m sure you know about these taxes I’ve mentioned, but perhaps you just “forgot”…
Would Salidans’ taxes go up if we incorporated? – NO (not without it going to a vote) Thanks to Prop 218, its against the law to raise local taxes without a vote. Additionally, LAFCO will not allow a city to impose new taxes to support incorporation. Again, if you had done a little more research…
And speaking of incorporation, I’ve NEVER stated that the county said that Salida could not incorporate because it lacks the tax base. We have a tax base bigger than Waterford’s and they’re incorporated. And we are NOT subsidized by the county. We have approx. 3,800 households in Salida and 2,800 of those pay into Mello Roos and CSA assessments. Due to our demographics, we do NOT qualify for any “low-income community” designations, so we are NOT the “welfare recipient of the county” that everyone seems to want to portray us as.
Most appalling in your piece is your insinuation that I’m helping to save Wood Colony to somehow preserve it for future annexation by Salida someday. And to think up until now I actually thought of you as an ally in this crazy mess your city started! What a huge disappointment you’ve turned out to be!
I know my friends in Wood Colony would easily vouch for me and annexation by a future City of Salida is something we’ve discussed. They know, and the county knows, all that I’ve done to help them. The things I’ve put in place will help protect them from any entity trying to annex them. My actions speak way louder than any words, and my actions are indeed altruistic. Because if I really did have a secret agenda to annex WC, then I would have done NOTHING.
You need to get your ears and your memory checked Bruce. I’ve never been more misquoted or had my words distorted as you’ve done in this piece! Suffice to say, I never want to speak to you again.
Eric Caine says
According to the Modesto Bee, annual cost to Stanislaus County to provide services to Salida is $2.6 million. Ed.
Eric Caine says
Here is the latest from Emerson Drake, who’s still having trouble posting comments:
Eric why you continue to post Bruce ‘Dark Side’ Frohman’s claptrap is beyond me. His unwillingness to leave the house to research and learn, and writing articles based on what he reads in the Bee or remembers or imagines from last year to fifteen years ago is appalling. It’s bad enough he misrepresents Ms. Borges but the fact both of you don’t do the research necessary to present a reasoned coherent argument is just intellectual laziness.
Citing the Bee article where they use the, shown to be flawed, Goodwin Study displays the unwillingness to research deeper than the first reference you find with agrees with you.
A reading of the Goodwin Study shows they charged/allotted over a million dollars to Salida for detention and correction when no other city in Stanislaus County was charged. They also billed/allotted Salida over three million dollars for the Sheriff’s Dept. when all they/Salida have is part time coverage. These are just examples of the article’s and the editor’s desire to ‘defend the product’ rather than seek the truth.
Maybe you should fact check Bruce ‘Dark Side’ Frohman’s tripe BEFORE you publish and then defend him.
You owe an apology to your readers and Ms. Borges
Eric Caine says
Thank you Emerson. Who was it showed the study to be flawed? Did the Bee post a correction?
Emerson Drake says
The Board of Supervisors acknowledged the discrepancy during a meeting between what cities larger and allotted more of the Sheriff’s resources paid for coverage and the amount for Salida.
And since when did the Bee become the arbitrator of what is true?
Try reading the Goodwin Study for yourself rather than asking others to do your leg work for you.
Eric Caine says
I have read it. I can’t follow you here.
Bruce Frohman says
After reading all of the comments, all I can say is I wrote what I know to be true based on four years of service on the Modesto City Council, what I have been told by Salidans and employees of the city and County. I have also used information in the Bee. If I am misinformed on any subject or have provided any misinformation, I would expect to be corrected in a civil manner without personal attacks. To say that I am deliberately being deceptive and dishonest does a disservice to intelligent discourse. I will consider some of the comments by my critics and contemplate whether I should make further reply. Note that I am not inclined to do so as the attacks will only bring further accusations and insults.