By Kathy Lee Scott/Garden Grove Journal
“Last year was a tough one, and this year will be tougher,” said Garden Grove Mayor William Dalton at the State of the City luncheon Tuesday. But he continues to be “confident and positive about the future of this community,” he told the audience gathered at the Embassy Suites.
In 2009, the state grabbed more than $13 million in property taxes and redevelopment tax increment money scheduled to come to Garden Grove.
It will take more in 2010, the mayor said. “These state takes are coming at a time when our own sales tax and property tax revenues have declined.”
To compensate for the lowered revenues, the city froze its hiring and cutback where it could, which reduced its budget $3.5 million last year.
Both those policies will continue this year. To thwart future state grabs, the city council has lent its support for an initiative to safeguard local monies for local agencies.
“It would close loopholes and revoke the state’s authority to borrow local government property tax funds or divert local redevelopment funds,” Dalton said.
To weather the revenue shortfall, Dalton said the council will “concentrate on developments and redevelopment projects that will strengthen the economic viability.”
He pointed out how the council hired the Jerde Partnership to create a master plan for the Brookhurst Triangle site.
It also will work with the Embassy Suites to expand the hotel and with McWhinney Enterprises to build a water park hotel. “This $300-million project taps into Orange County’s sizable chunk of 44 million visitors per year, will create 600 new jobs and bring $5.3 million to the city,” he said.
The projects will take some time before they come to fruition, the mayor said. In the meantime, Brandywine Development Company has started work on its 53-unit housing complex at the Century Triangle, across from Costco.
Construction on the $2.5-million, grant-funded Buena Clinton Youth and Family Center began last year, Dalton said.
“Over $7 million in federal and state grants are now ours,” he said, to pay for infrastructure and service enhancements.
The council issued $32 million in water bonds for capital improvements to the city’s water system, the mayor said. In addition, the city continues to replace its sewer and water infrastructure “as promised,” he said.
Last year saw Garden Grove open its first dog park at Garden Grove Park, create a community garden and expand the amount of exercise equipment to two parks. The latter was financed by a grant from Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen.
The city bought land for a new fire station on Harbor Boulevard, as well as three more fire engines.
Public safety has improved, Dalton said, with major crime decreasing 15 percent during 2009. That led the city to be listed among the Top 100 “Safest Cities” in America.
“We do not see things significantly improving for at least two years,” the mayor said, “but we won’t stand still.”