Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have restored funding to newly incorporated cities through vehicle license fees.
It’s the tale of four cities for Wildomar, Menifee, Eastvale and Jurupa Valley. At the best of times the communities had the funds to incorporate, then despair kicked in when the Gov. passed a bill last year redirecting the funds.
The four cities had everything they needed to thrive and grow their communities then with a single swipe of the pen SB 89 eliminated $130 million in Vehicle License Fees (VLF), two-thirds of which were marked for public safety services.
The bill was passed by both the Senate and Assembly on Tuesday June 28, 2011 affected every city in California but hardest hit were those incorporated after 2006.
“We knew it was an uphill battle with the governor and California Association of Counties who were working against us,” said Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries.
Jeffries said the effort to pass AB 1098 through both houses took a bi-partisan effort and the momentum to pass it was positive.
The four fledging cities in Riverside County were hit the hardest in the state. City leaders and lobbyists fought hard to reverse SB 89 with AB 1098 because they all incorporated with an agreement in which they were eligible for a much higher percentage of the fees to help them get established in their early years.
Wildomar, which incorporated in 2008, lost 25 percent of its general fund revenue or close to $1.8 million, Menifee, $3.9 million, Jurupa Valley $1.7 and Eastvale $3 million.
“These were funds we thought were secured,” said Menifee’s City Manager Bill Rawlings.
“I got a call from the governor’s office an hour before the bill was vetoed,” said Wildomar Mayor Ben Benoit. “Immediately I contacted the other cities leaders and well, there were lots of unpleasant words tossed around.”
Benoit said the city will continue to fight to get their new city on equal ground. “At first the news was like a hit in the gut, but now we are game planning.”
Wildomar Council Member Bridgette Moore said the city is managing to operate in the black and is budgeted to grow within its means.
“We may be in the black, but we had to cut emergency services,” said Moore. “The $1.7 million could have gone to public safety and hiring more police.”
Steve Harding, a resident of Murrieta and Jurupa Valley city manager said city council will be holding a meeting to discuss options. AB 1098 was Jurupa Valley’s spring of hope.
“Disincorporation is an option,” said Harding. “We can also raise taxes, ask for help from the county. Bottom line — unless we find a way to generate funds from another source we will run out of money in a year.”
Rawlings said Menifee has already taken steps with its budget to operate without the VLF funds.
“We took a long term approach when balancing our budget and are operating the city as if we won’t receive the funds,” said Rawlings.
Jeffries said the issue is dead in the water this calendar year and supports the cities who turn to the county to asking for temporary assistance to stay incorporated.
Citizens can get involved by contacting Gov. Brown’s office by phone at 916-445-2841, by fax, 916-558-3160, email gov.ca.gov/m_contact.php or by mail at Governor Jerry Brown C/O State Capital, Suite 1173 Sacramento, CA 95814.
Michelle Mears-Gerst is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.