SACRAMENTO (AP) — Much of the $5 billion a year in property taxes that cash-strapped California sends to cities across the state to promote redevelopment isn’t used for that purpose but to fund government employee salaries and pay for other day-to-day operations, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
With California struggling to balance its budget, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed eliminating the state’s redevelopment program as a luxury the state can no longer afford. He wants to rechannel that money instead to schools, counties and the state itself.
Mayors of cities across the state have strongly opposed the proposal, saying redevelopment money is something their municipalities can’t survive without.
The city of Grand Terrace, for example, uses a portion of its redevelopment money to pay part of the salaries of 14 of its 20 employees, the Times reported.
Without it, the city of 12,000 that is situated between Riverside and San Bernardino might have to disincorporate, said Mayor Walt Stanckiewitz.
“That’s how serious this is,” he said.
The Los Angeles suburb of Montebello authorized borrowing as much as $19 million from its redevelopment agency last year to balance its general fund budget. It also uses redevelopment money to pay its city manager and other employees.
Huron, in central California, uses the money to pay police, code enforcement and animal control officers.
Other cities that the Times said use redevelopment money to pay salaries include Long Beach, Oakland and San Jose.
In Oakland, the money pays the salaries of 171 full-time employees, including 17 police officers.
Grand Terrace, which was accused of misusing its redevelopment money, is struggling to pay back $4 million.
But other cities justify using the funds to pay police officers and others who work in run-down areas.
The 17 officers paid with redevelopment funds in Oakland, for example, provide safety to that city’s most blighted communities, said Mayor Jean Quan.
“People think, oh, you’re not supposed to use (redevelopment money) for core service, but (what) if economic development is a big part of your core service?” Quan said.
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