By Jim Tortolano/Garden Grove Journal
The new state budget proposed this week by Gov. Jerry Brown is aimed at solving California’s perpetual mess, but it could mean even bigger problems for local government.
That’s the assessment from two local city managers, who feel that the governor’s proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies are a threat to their city’s own financial well-being.
“It would bedevastating to our city,” said Carol Jacobs, the city manager of Stanton. “Ninety-eight percent of the city is in a redevelopment area. This is how we finance a lot of our programs such as graffiti abatement and adding new parks.”
She suggested that the governor was “not living in a state of reality. Redevelopment, if done right, is a valuable tool to improve communities. I don’t even know if what he’s proposing is legal.”
Brown’s budget calls for asking voters to extend previously approved “temporary” tax increases, as well as dramatic cuts in services. The axe will fall heaviest on higher education, welfare, health services and the prison system.
By eliminating redevelopment agencies, more money would be available for local agencies such as city general funds, county government, etc., according to Brown. There are redevelopment agencies in most Orange County cities, including Garden Grove, Stanton and Westminster.
Matt Fertal, city manager of Garden Grove, also opposes Brown’s plans for redevelopment agencies. “If we didn’t have redevelopment, we wouldn’t have many of the improvements we have in Garden Grove. We wouldn’t have a revitalized shopping center at Brookhurst [Street] and Chapman [Avenue], we wouldn’t have a Home Depot, we wouldn’t have the hotels on Harbor Boulevard.”
Although he doubts the proposal will be approved, he allows that even talk of an end to redevelopment “could” have a chilling effect on projects now underway or contemplated.
“I’m not sure how you’d even do what he is proposing,” said Fertal. “Redevelopment is in the state constitution. Certainly, this would be tied up in the courts for years.”
Fertal suggests that the redevelopment notion might not be Brown’s real plan, but that instead “he might be jockeying for something else” in the coming budget debate.
Jacobs said the better solution would be for the state to clean its own house by trimming waste. “It’s a huge, bloated bureaucracy,” she said.
If city leaders are grinding their teeth over Brown’s plans, there’s a sigh of relief from public education.
“I’m cautiously optimistic, said Sue McCann, assistant superintendent for business for the Garden Grove Unified School District, the county’s second-largest public school system.
“We’re glad that the governor has apparently taken note of the fact that education has already taken some big hits,” she said. Brown’s proposed budget calls for no further cuts to school districts, but the situation is a bit more complicated than that.
The GGUSD has been able to balance its budget with a combination of cuts, dipping into reserves and the use of temporary federal “stimulus” money. Regardless of what might happen in Sacramento, “we’re still looking at a 17 to 22 percent deficit next year.”
Further, if voters don’t approve the extension of tax increases, the governor’s vow to keep hands off K-12 education could disappear.