Council votes on 'opt-in' ordinance
THE CALIFORNIA REDEVELOPMENT Association composed a mock ransom note to make its point.
The Sonoma City Council will meet Monday evening to conduct a second reading of a proposed ordinance to "opt-in" to a state-mandated payment program in order to keep its redevelopment agency functioning.
Second reading of the ordinance is expected to result in a majority vote of the council in favor of continuing the city's Community Development Agency, which currently manages some $50 million of assets paid for through redevelopment bonds.
The legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown agreed on an ostensibly balanced state budget earlier this summer that included eliminating the California's 400 redevelopment agencies and appropriating $1.8 billion in redevelopment funds to pour back into local school districts. But the budget bills eliminating the agencies allowed them to continue functioning if they agree to make payments to Sacramento equaling their share of state payments to K-12 school districts.
For the City of Sonoma, the required payment (some critics have called it a "ransom") would be $1.7 million, with additional annual payments estimated at $400,000.
But the city has already filed a legal challenge to the state assessment, arguing that a more accurate payment by the state's formula would be about $1.4 million, and a corresponding reduction in the annual payments.
Compounding the picture is a legal challenge to the entire exercise, filed by the California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities that the state Supreme Court has agreed to hear and decide before mid-January.
Meanwhile, the court has issued a partial stay prohibiting the dissolution of redevelopment agencies pending a decision.
Sonoma's redevelopment funds have been used for everything from renovation of the police station/community meeting room, to construction of affordable housing, street reconstruction and the current renovation of the Sonoma Valley Regional Library.
Redevelopment funds also help pay the salaries of city employees engaged in redevelopment district activities.
About 40 percent of Sonoma is covered by the redevelopment district, which is administered by the city's Community Development Agency (CDA). The CDA, in turn, is composed of the City Council members.
During discussion of the first reading of the "opt-in" ordinance on Aug. 15, Mayor Pro Tem Joanne Sanders was the lone voice arguing against continuing the life of the CDA. "I am of the opinion we need to wean ourselves away from the redevelopment debt," she insisted. "As much as I love the local control (of redevelopment funds), in the end, I think we really need to stop the redevelopment."
Councilmember Ken Brown reflected the majority view when he responded to Sanders, saying, "I am extremely proud of what our staff has done with our redevelopment agency. I would be hard-pressed to find a redevelopment project that hasn't been super successful."
Approval of the first reading of the opt-in ordinance won on a 3-1 vote with Sanders dissenting and Mayor Laurie Gallian recusing herself because of a feared conflict of interest related to her employment by the Sonoma Charter School, which is located in a redevelopment district in the Springs.
Asked if Gallian would be required to recuse herself during Monday's vote on adopting the ordinance, City Attorney Jeff Walter said, "I don't think so," adding he did not see any related impact on Charter School finances.
The City Council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 29, in the Community Meeting Room, 177 First St. W., and is open to the public.