Great Wolf funds 3.54% of city’s spending for day-to-day needs


Great Wolf is on target — in terms of net room tax revenue in the city’s $67 million general fund budget — to contribute 3.54 percent or $1,897,087 to the funding of Manteca’s day-to-day municipal services this fiscal year.

That excludes the city’s share of property and sales tax Great Wolf pays on an annual basis estimated at $212,000.

And by “net room tax” that excludes the portion of the room tax collected at the indoor waterpark that is returned to Great Wolf as part of the deal that brought them to Manteca.

As such, it is similar to the sales tax generated by Costco that for 12 years a portion was returned to Costco to cover the cost of building as part of the deal that located the major sales tax collector in Manteca and not in Lathrop.

It is a “talking point” to keep in mind as the city embarks on a journey that could end up with the placement of a measure on the 2024 ballot to increase the municipal sales tax.

The reason why Great Wolf would be central to a 2024 election if it happens was the misconstruing of the annual revenue stream from the resort by the administration of former City Manager Miranda Lutzow and the outside consultant she hired who unearthed overall municipal bookkeeping issues that distorted the revenue as well as expense picture of the city.

At one point — much to the chagrin of Great Wolf and city leaders that hammered out the deal — the long departed city manager and consultant who had no working knowledge of the deal and a subsequent room tax increase approved by voters — claimed the city was going to receive only $32,052 the first year of full operation of the resort as the first of 10 annual installment payments for the land bought from the city.

Such a myopic read ignored:

*Other room tax receipts reimbursing the city on an annual basis for more than $8 million in deferred growth-related fees and planning costs.

*A 3 percent increase in the room tax authorized by voters during the Great Wolf negotiations that took the citywide room tax from 9 percent to 12 percent. The additional 3 percent was not part of the agreement to revenue room taxes and is kept 100 percent by the city.

Why any of this matter is the city for several years argued the Great Wolf deal wasn’t going to bring in the amount of money that was anticipated.

As such, it would not provide a sizeable stream of revenue to the city hence one of the arguments for a tax increase.

“It was designed as a back-loaded deal for the city,” former Councilman Richard Silverman noted.

The first 10 years was structured to cover fees and such from the city’s share of the 9 percent portion of the 12 percent room tax Great Wolf collects.

That is not to say a valid argument can’t be made to increase the city’s sales tax when the time comes to make such a decision.

Former Manteca mayor says city

needs to be more transparent

in regards to Great Wolf impacts

It’s just that it is disingenuous to tell the electorate that Great Wolf is a financial dud when it comes to the city’s general fund.

The city also hasn’t been doing a good job of making it crystal clear to the public of how Great Wolf distorts the revenue and expense sides of the general fund.

It’s not that it isn’t being tracked and properly accounted for as it is lumped into the budget. The problem is the impacts of what is the biggest joint venture in the city’s history is not split out separately for public scrutiny.

As an example, based on the agreement, Great Wolf in its first full year of operation generated $3,582,567 in room tax.

But $2 million of that presents the 75 percent share Great Wolf gets to partially reimburse the $180 million investment that the city agreed to in order for them not to build in Brentwood or elsewhere.

The city’s share of $1,582,567 in the first two years only includes a $1,250.00 annual payment to reimburse the developer for growth fees it did pay in advance.

During the same time the city is taking $300,000 a year for the first 10 years to reimburse growth fees that they agreed to pay. That is in addition to paying off the land purchase over the course of 10 years to the tune of $765,000.

That means by the end of 2024 — the next time the city can ask the voters to raise taxes — the city will receive an estimated $1,398,542 that year in its cut of the room tax that isn’t encumbered to pay itself back. That’s because the $1,250,000 annual payment from the city’s share for growth fee paid by Great Wolf the city agreed to reimburse them for will have been paid.

That means in the 2025-2026 fiscal year the city should realize a net $2,362,497 in its room tax share that isn’t contractually encumbered. That’s $500,000 more than what the city expects to “net’ this year.

Former Mayor Steve DeBrum, who was part of the approval process that spanned a decade from start to finish for the Great Wolf, believes the city needs to make such breakdowns of the progress of the Great Wolf deal public is an easy to read format instead of forcing citizens to wade thought the budget as well as hundreds of pages of economic analysis and revenue sharing agreements to determine where the city stands.

“It is the responsibility of the city to share (the financial data) in a clear and transparent manner,” DeBrum said.

City of Manteca is expected

to realize $132 million in room

tax from Great Wolf over 25 years

The bulk of the city’s upfront unencumbered room tax from Great Wolf was made possible by the additional 3 percent room tax that Great Wolf cannot touch and was not part of the city’s original analysis in deciding on the feasibility of the project and whether it would benefit Manteca in the long run.

When the 15th year of operation is reached, the split drops to 50-50 when it comes to the 9 percent portion of the room tax. Between that and the additional 3 percent the city’s “net” in room tax would be $3.7 million for that fiscal year or $1.8 million more than in the current year.

During the 25-year life of the revenue sharing agreement, Great Wolf will receive $99,957,075 from the 9 percent portion of the room tax. Manteca’s share of that portion would come to $74,304.936.

Add the additional 3 percent that was put in place that is outside the Great Wolf agreement, the city will receive an estimated $132 million over the first 25 years.

Then in the 26th year when the room tax split is gone, the city will realize $11 million annually.

Keep in mind the numbers represent 3 percent growth from inflation. That means in constant 2022 dollars Great Wolf’s impact on the general fund of unencumbered fund on an annual basis would be more than $9 million above and beyond what it will be this year when the additional 3 percent is included.

The property and sales tax was segregated from the room tax in the thorough financial analysis of the project.

As such when weighed against the cost of providing police, fire and other non-fee-based services to Great Wolf, it was made clear the sales and property tax benefits from the 500-room resort would cover the cost of the city’s tab and then some when it came to the cost of municipal services the city would incur on an annual basis because the resort is in Manteca.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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