No Money, Mo‘ Problems
By Alex Distefano
A proposed bill might create some cash-money for Jurupa Valley and other cities getting financially screwed over
Back in 2011, when the state budget diverted funds from vehicle license fee revenue—money that would have typically gone to help fund local cities—to pay for local law enforcement grants, people knew there would repercussions. And among the cities in Riverside County, three in particular—Eastvale, Wildomar and Jurupa Valley—are facing these repercussions.
The city in the worst shape is Jurupa Valley, according to The Press-Enterprise. Without help from the state government—remember, that’s where that vehicle license fee money used to come from—the city might have no other choice but to dissolve its cityhood status, reverting back to what it used to be: an unincorporated community under the governance of Riverside County.
A Jurupa Valley city official confirmed much of these concerns this week.
“I can’t speak for the other cities, specifically, but Jurupa Valley is in bad shape,” City Manager Steve Harding told the Weekly. “Our city will run out of funds, in between two and four years.” Jurupa Valley became a city in 2011 and its current population stands at about 100,000.
“From now until then, the [city] council will have two options: we will have to ask the voters for a tax, or we will have to disincorporate,” Harding says. “Now bear in mind, this is if we don’t change anything. We can last four years after July 1, 2013.”
Jurupa Valley’s in bad shape. Last year, the city lost nearly $7 million and about $6.5 million in the current fiscal year—keep in mind that Jurupa Valley’s general fund budget right now is around the neighborhood of $18 million. Wildomar got screwed over, too, losing $6.8 million last year, $1.6 million this year.
But there could be another hope: a bill that would use money from property tax revenue to aide cities under financial distress. Senate Bill 56—which has garnered bipartisan support—would tap a portion of the local property-tax base—which currently goes to local schools—and use it for the cities hurt by the 2011 budget shift which left these communities strapped for cash, with coffers to fill.
It’s all up to Jurupa Valley’s elected officials
“They will have to figure out if they want to reinstitute some of the cuts, primarily to law enforcement,” Harding says. “To further help this situation, they will also need to step up code enforcement, economic development and more—but those decisions are all up them.”
But why tap into a source of money that would normally go to schools to bail out municipal governments? Isn’t that just solving one problem by creating another? Not so, according to Harding.
“That is not the right perspective because we’re not simply taking the money from the schools, without giving it back,” he says. “The issue here is the state is obligated to ‘backfill,’ or reimburse the school districts, so they don’t lose a dime.”
SB 56—authored by state Sens. Richard Roth (D-Riverside) and Bill Emmerson (R-Hemet)—is slated to get its first hearing on April 17. It’s no slam-dunk as Harding says the legislation will ultimately face an uphill battle from both the state legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown (some expect him to veto the bill).
“We all know what’s going on,” he says. “It’s been going through the [state] Senate and state Assembly and the governor vetoed it last September. But we all know what our city needs, and we just wanted to be treated like all other cities in the state.”