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Temecula Council Finalizes Vote on Dismantling Redevelopment

The City must now find a way to pay off debts incurred by the redevelopment agency and fulfill its obligation to complete already planned projects.

The City Council of Temecula last week finalized its decision to break apart its redevelopment agency.

The decision was made under duress, following o block Gov. Jerry Brown's decision last year to shut down the agencies and have the money in them revert to the state.

Temecula and other municipalities took the case to the

That court upheld the state's move to take RDA money already in the coffers but also struck down a measure that would allow agencies to reform,for education and fire districts.

The agency's breakup entails moving to the county auditor for disbursal to

The city's redevelopment agency collects property taxes from blighted areas on the condition that it spends the money to rejuvenate those areas.

"It's the main reason we have The Promenade mall today," City Manager Shawn Nelson said.

During a meeting last year, Nelson named a few projects that were completed with redevelopment funds, including construction of the new Civic Center, the Winchester Road/Temecula Valley Freeway interchange, the Old Town Temecula Community Theater and infrastructure in Old Town costing $25 million.

Once the agency is dismantled, any funds left over will be handled by the city to pay debts incurred by redevelopment for projects and bonds.

For fiscal year 2010-2011, the agency had $38 million in its coffers -- $16 million of that money issued in bonds to pay for several affordable housing developments.

But a good portion of the money has been earmarked for projects already inked in and it is unclear how much of those funds will go to the county, nor when that would happen.

Currently, a bill sponsored by state Sen, Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, is making the rounds in Sacramento and if passed, would delay the deconstruction of redevelopment agencies until April 15.

A coalition of agencies around the state have signed a letter to the governor asking him to at least temporarily postpone implementation of the law in order to stave off lawsuits and possibly save jobs.

The letter, signed by the Coalition for Jobs and neighborhood Renewal, urges the governor to approve the bill.

Elimination of the redevelopment agencies is set to take effect Feb. 1.

Although Los Angeles officials have decided not to allow the city to become a sucessor agency to pay off debts and fulfill redevelopment obligations because of the costs, Temecula is already operating on a small staff.

Temecula Redevelopment Agency Chairman, Mike Naggar, said the situation is different here.

City employees involved in redevelopment projects generally come from the city's Planning Department, so there will not be much of a staff to eliminate, he said.

Last year, Temecula tried to protect some $120 million from the state in the event of Brown's plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies and have the money redistributed.

Among those measures that were taken were the sale of bonds and the approval in Old Town.

The city also formed the Temecula Valley Housing Authority so that it could  manage the funds to finance new affordable housing projects.

Meanwhile, city activities, such as the hugely popular seasonal ice skaing rink and the "hot summer nights," movie, music and balloon glow program, which have in the past been funded with redevelopment money, may fall to the ax.

The 2012-13 budget plan will determine what happens to those well-liked communty events.

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