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Closing Down Redevelopment Agencies Could Mean More Money for Schools

January 3, 2012

Let’s hope that money which used to be earmarked for redevelopment agencies could now be used for local school districts.   I support Jerry Brown‘s decision to do this.  This article goes over possible implications.

Schools throughout San Diego County and statewide are working to figure out what Thursday’s California Supreme Court ruling on redevelopment money means to their lean budgets.

The court ruled the state could dissolve the local agencies that subsidize construction in blighted areas. Gov. Jerry Brown has argued that redevelopment money could better spent on schools and other agencies.

Brown had been counting on $1.7 billion in redevelopment money to balance the state budget this year. He called the ruling a victory.

“Today’s ruling by the California Supreme Court validates a key component of the state budget and guarantees more than a billion dollars of ongoing funding for schools and public safety,” Brown said in a prepared statement.

Uncertainties linger over how the $1.7 billion will be spent this year and whether or not schools will once again be tapped for more cuts.

“We are still analyzing this,” said Bernie Rhinerson, chief of staff for the San Diego Unified School District. “We are hoping this is good news.”

The court’s ruling could mean more money for schools in the coming years from property taxes that would have otherwise gone to redevelopment agencies.

Schools could be vulnerable to cuts this year if the state has no access to the $1.7 billion in redevelopment funds to balance this year’s budget, said Ron Bennett, president of School Services of California, an education consulting firm in Sacramento.

“Anything that makes the budget gap bigger is potentially harmful to schools. The state will now be down about $1.7 billion,” Bennett said. “The big question is who gets the $1.7 billion if the state doesn’t?”

Education leaders have largely kept out of the debate over redevelopment money, perhaps to avoid straining their relationships with city and county officials.

“The value judgment to be made here is: bricks and mortar that creates jobs and does good things for neighborhoods or allow schools to keep teachers and continue to educate students at the same level,” Rhinerson said.

The ruling is the worst-case scenario for cities and redevelopment leaders, who had sued the state over two bills approved by lawmakers and signed by Brown.

The first law abolishing redevelopment agencies was ruled legal. But the second law was ruled unconstitutional because agencies have a right to retain local revenues.


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