September 30, 2015

JURUPA VALLEY: City says it will survive, after all

City officials had planned to start moving to dissolve, but now they have new life after passage of a new bill.

BY SANDRA STOKLEY / The Press-Enterprise

Freed from the burden of about $22 million owed to Riverside County by a one-time infusion of state funds, Jurupa Valley officials are ready to declare they won’t dissolve the city and aren’t “going anywhere.”

City council members on Thursday, Oct. 1, are set to vote to repeal a 2014 resolution that stated their intent to start disincorporation. They would have been the first city in the county –and the state – to do so since Cabazon in 1972.

Council members approved the resolution, the first step in the lengthy process of dissolving a city, in January 2014 when the city was reeling from the loss of millions of dollars in state revenue after the California legislature voted to shift vehicle-license fee revenue from cities to law enforcement grants.

Jurupa Valley was teetering on the brink of insolvency, but was saved when Riverside County agreed to delay millions of dollars in payments the city owed for helping it transition to cityhood, its Riverside County Sheriff’s Department contract and revenue neutrality payments.

Though Gov. Jerry Brown has refused to reinstate the lost money – he has vetoed three bills that would have restored the funding – this year he signed Senate Bill 107. The new bill will pay $24 million that Riverside County owes to Cal Fire for firefighting services, provided that the county forgives the debt owed by Jurupa Valley and Riverside County’s other three new cities: Eastvale, Wildomar and Menifee.

The four cities lost crucial state funding, but Jurupa Valley was hardest hit because the loss of state money came just days before the city incorporated July 1, 2011.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Jurupa Valley Mayor Brad Hancock said this week.

While the city is still dipping into reserves to balance its annual budget, Hancock predicted that if Jurupa Valley is careful with its expenditures “in two years we’ll have a balanced budget with no help from the state.”

Jurupa Valley’s 2015-16 budget showed a deficit of about $2.4 million, which will come from the city’s estimated $8 to $10 million in reserves.

“We’ll be in a deficit for the next couple of years,” City Manager Gary Thompson said. “Our reserves will go down, but we have pretty healthy reserves.”

The city’s next challenge will be making the annual revenue neutrality payments it owes Riverside County. Revenue neutrality is money Jurupa Valley pays the county to offset sales tax and other revenue the county loses to a newly incorporated city. For the 2016-17 fiscal year, Jurupa Valley is set to pay $1.9 million to Riverside County.

Thompson said that, after the first of the year, he hopes to talk to Riverside County officials about changing the agreement.

It remains to be seen if a lawsuit Jurupa Valley filed against Riverside County earlier this year over disputed property tax revenue will play a role in those discussions.

“That may come into play,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be a big job. Riverside County has to own up to the neglect they showed the community all those years.”


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