By Deanne Goodman | Patch.com
After years of holding up funding, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Thursday he’s prepared to make revenue available to four Riverside County cities that were shortchanged -- leaving one teetering on the brink of financial ruin -- under a 2011 budget overhaul.
The governor’s May Revise contains provisions for Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Menifee and Wildomar to receive monetary relief in the 2015-16 fiscal year budget.
Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, celebrated the development, noting that he has pushed this year for a resolution to the cities’ plight, negotiating with the governor and other state officials to procure funds for the cities.
“Restoring funding for Riverside County’s newest cities has been one of my top priorities since day one,” the first-term state senator said. “I am pleased the governor has included this funding in his revised budget. These cities, through no fault of their own, lost funding that every other new city historically received, and I thank the governor for recognizing this critical issue ... that threatened to force at least one city to disincorporate.’
According to a statement included in the governor’s May Revise, which updates the coming year’s budgetary priorities, the governor is proposing to supply $24 million in general fund revenue to defray some of the four cities’ public safety obligations.
Under the proposal, Riverside County as a whole would be relieved of paying money owed in the next fiscal year for services provided by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in exchange for forgiving the cities’ unpaid debts to the county for public safety services.
Roth had sought a more direct route to restore the millions of dollars stripped away from the cities through legislation introduced earlier this year.
Under Senate Bill 25, beginning in the next fiscal year, vehicle license fee revenue would be allocated to the four cities based on a formula that factors in population and local property tax assessments.
SB 25, which is stalled in the Senate Appropriations Committee, is similar to a bill that Roth carried last year, SB 56, which received majority support in the Assembly and Senate, but was vetoed by the governor, who cited concerns about digging into the general fund to make the funding available.
For the same reasons, Brown also vetoed an Assembly bill seeking to restore funding to the cities in 2012. Other bills have been submitted but lost traction in the Legislature.
The four cities were entitled to roughly $15 million from the state when the Legislature approved -- and the governor signed -- SB 89 into law. The act shifted funds owed to cities that incorporated between 2004 and 2011 into a “Law Enforcement Services Account” established to offset expenses incurred by counties and municipalities under the governor’s public safety realignment plan.
Wildomar incorporated on July 1, 2008; Menifee incorporated on Oct. 1, 2008; Eastvale incorporated on Oct. 1, 2010; and Jurupa Valley incorporated on July 1, 2011 -- two days after SB 89 took effect. The nascent city was the hardest hit financially, losing half the funds anticipated in its first fiscal year budget.
Jurupa Valley in 2014 filed notice with the Riverside County Local Agency Formation Commission that it may have to disincorporate and go back to county control without a financial rescue.