gets funds boosted
By Jesse Phelps
The Ojai City Council convened
for a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday morning in which it
unanimously approved a new ordinance that will allow the city's
redevelopment agency more latitude for new projects and city
The new provision will allow cities to extend their debt limit
for redevelopment projects. City Manager Dan Singer said in an
interview that this would help Ojai tremendously in its goals
of updating city infrastucture and creating traffic and pedestrian
improvements, among others.
"The total budget for the city for these projects is not
much," Singer said. "It's only a couple hundred thousand
dollars a year. But over 10 years, that adds up to a couple of
million dollars, so it's significant. We were reaching our limit
after developments like the police building remodel, Cluff Vista
Park and the Arcade Plaza."
Singer said at the meeting that city staff has been looking for
ways to facilitate more projects, including extending its ability
to incur debt. With the introduction of Senate Bill 211, a new
piece of legislation that extends debt limits for agencies created
prior to 1994, they found their solution.
SB211 changed an element of the California Health and Safety
Code to provide that a legislative body such as the council may
amend its redevelopment plan by enacting an ordinance to eliminate
the time limit on the establishment of loans, advances and indebtedness.
Adoption of the ordinance will mean that the redevelopment agency
will not lose its ability to fund new projects and it can avoid
what city special projects coordinator Kathy McCann termed "maintenance
mode, i.e., paying off existing bonds and city loans, completing
a few small projects on the books and administering housing projects."
Said McCann at the start of her presentaton to the council, "I
wore green today because this does mean money for us."
Council member David Bury said adoption of the ordinance looks
like a great thing for the community on the surface but asked
if any potential drawbacks or negatives exist in its adoption.
The only potential negative, said staffers, isn't really a negative
at all. Under the new ordinance, the city will be required to
split new incoming property tax revenues, giving 25 percent of
the increase in value over the base year (fiscal year 2003-2004)
to other taxing enities.
Under the old system, McCann
said, redevelopment was not responsible for sharing with the
other entities, such as the Ojai Unified School District and
utility providers like sewer and water districts.
"We didn't have to share anything with anyone," she
said. "We got one percent of the total valuation of tax
revenues per year. $75 million is the total valuation of the
properties in the downtown area, so the city redevelopent agency
was collecting $750,000."
With the new plan in place, redevelopment will still collect
this base amount plus 75 percent of what it previously collected
for any yearly increase in property tax values, McCann said.
And more importantly, she said, the agency keeps its ability
to invest in projects, rather than being shut out of new development.
Presently, said staffers, banks consider Ojai to be a risky investment
due to recent litigation and unfinished projects like Los Arboles,
which when complete will raise property tax revenues.
"We have lots of potential for money, but without the ordinance
we can't capitalize on that," said McCann. "If we
didn't pass this, we would be shooting ourselves in the foot.
Our ability to incur debt is crucial to our redevelopment activities."
With redevelopment's new leeway, council will have the opportunity
to pursue several planned projects previously moved to the proverbial
back burner, including moving utilities on East Ojai Avenue underground.
With the potential benefits of passing the new ordinance clear
and a short time frame for doing so - the cutoff is Jan. 2004
- council elected to hold Tuesday's special meeting. The ordinance
will now come back as a discussion item at the Nov. 18 council
meeting so the public has a better opportunity to provide its
The Ojai Valley News
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