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Rosy outlook for Turlock’s RDA budget

POSTED May 13, 2011 8:34 p.m.

Less than three months ago, redevelopment agencies statewide were facing a seemingly-imminent, state mandated disbanding as part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2011-2012 budget proposal.

But in recent weeks, the state legislature has backed away from the plan due to legal concerns and statewide backlash, members of the Turlock City Council learned at a preliminary redevelopment and housing budget hearing Tuesday evening.

“It is still alive, and could still potentially be acted on,” said Turlock Redevelopment and Economic Development Manager Heidi McNally-Dial. “But we believe this shift now seems to be a little more toward reform than elimination.”

The proposed changes in a recent Assembly bill are sweeping. Redevelopment areas would be capped in area, spending would be restricted from certain projects such as golf courses and stadiums, and agencies would be subject to regular audits.

“It does provide reform but does leave, in essence, RDAs intact,” McNally-Dial said.

The shift is, in large part, driven by a state Legislative Council report which found eliminating redevelopment agencies to be unconstitutional. The hit to low-income housing projects – as 20 percent of all RDA revenue is pledged to such development – also drew opposition which was unexpected by the Brown administration.

Without a clear picture of the future of RDAs, Turlock’s RDA budget is still very preliminary. But good news appears to be on the horizon, as budget projections foresee about $1 million in available Turlock RDA funding annually.

With $7.5 million in tax increment revenue, about $1.4 million would head to low-income housing, $2.2 million to tax pass-through agreements with agencies such as school and mosquito abatement districts and $3.3 million to payments on bonds previously issued. That would leave the Redevelopment Agency with about $900,000 to work with on an annual basis.

Turlock doesn’t plan to allocate that money to any specific project, as the shift away from elimination of redevelopment agencies makes spending money as it comes in less relevant. But the city may use the funding to help pay for Turlock’s new, in-construction Public Safety Facility, which is currently reliant upon the sale of the existing Police Department building to finance construction.

Much is still uncertain in the land of redevelopment agencies.

A lawsuit from the California Redevelopment Agency is still pending against the State of California, alleging a budget maneuver initiated in 2009 – and continued to this year – is unconstitutional. The state forced RDAs around the state to pay $2.2 billion in total to local county auditors, who then were forced to redirect that funding to local school districts in lieu of the state’s obligation; Turlock’s RDA wrote a check on Tuesday for $687,000 – this year’s share of the more than $4 million taken from the city.

“We’re still actively part in that appeal, and we’re hoping that appeals court will see fit to provide those funds to the cities that generated them,” McNally-Dial said. “... We feel it is an unfair taking.”

While Turlock’s RDA budget appears rosy, Housing may experience a slight decline in federal grant applications, based on preliminary information received from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Housing Program Manager Maryn Pitt said she believes the division will still be able to manage the program and carry out objectives laid forth in planning documents, despite the expected decrease.

 

The Turlock City Council on Tuesday also:

  • Authorized the removal and surplus or sale of the batting cage facility equipment at Pedretti Fields. The cages have not been operational in over two years, as a succession of vendors have struggled to turn a profit at the facility and subsequently closed.

  • Delayed considering an $117,628 change order for the Canal Drive Reconstruction and Resurfacing project, which rebuilt the road from Geer Road to Daubenberger Road. The item was removed from the agenda, and will be addressed at a future meeting.

  • Vice Mayor Amy Bublak requested the Turlock City Council formally discuss an initiative backed by Councilwoman Mary Jackson to change signs along Highway 99 to read “Downtown Turlock,” rather than “Central Turlock.”
    Jackson has been investigating the change with the Stanislaus County Council of Governments, and with CalTrans, though the City Council has yet to formally discuss the matter.
    Bublak raised the issue during the council items for future consideration agenda item.

 

  • Issued proclamations for Older Americans Month, American Legion Auxiliary Poppy Days, Asthma Awareness Month and Public Works Week.

 

  • Received a special briefing from Pamela Contreras, vice president external of Associated Students Inc. at California State University, Stanislaus.

 

  • Receive a briefing from the Turlock City Arts Commission on the Spring Juried Art Show, which will conclude on Tuesday with a reception at City Hall.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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