Statement: “The governor wants to redirect all the tax money to the general funds of cities,” City News Service reported Feb. 24, referring to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies.
Analysis: In the run-up to a $4 billion decision the City Council made Monday, an article by City News Service circulated by several local media outlets inaccurately described a core fact in the contentious debate over redevelopment.
The City Council meeting came in response to Brown’s proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies, which receive funding through local property taxes. By eliminating the agencies, their slice of property taxes would be divided among cities, schools, counties and other local governments — not just cities, as the news service said.
For San Diego, losing redevelopment agencies would put a major kink in several projects proposed by city officials, including a downtown Chargers stadium and an expanded Convention Center, and cut funding for affordable housing.
City officials have been some of the most outspoken opponents of Brown’s proposal, but in the scenario described by City News Service, a local wire service, they would be its biggest benefactors. If “all the tax money” from redevelopment agencies went into cities’ general funds, cities wouldn’t lose money to schools and other local government agencies. They would be able to spend the money with fewer restrictions.
With a few exceptions, redevelopment money currently must be spent within certain areas of San Diego and aim to reduce blight. If the money went into cities’ general funds — day-to-day operating budgets — it could help address budget shortfalls or any number of future expenses.
But that’s not what Brown is proposing and that’s not what the City Council addressed on Monday. Fearing the loss of redevelopment money, the council approved a $4 billion spending plan for the next four decades. It hopes the plan will effectively thwart the governor’s proposal and ensure that property taxes continue paying for redevelopment projects in San Diego.
Since City News Service inaccurately described Brown’s proposal, we’ve called the statement False.
After we contacted City News Service about the error, it promised to send a memo to its clients and clarify the governor’s proposal in a new story about the City Council vote. That story accurately reported:
The governor wants to eliminate the agencies and send their tax revenue to cities, counties, school districts and some special districts — with one-time contributions in the upcoming fiscal year to Medi-Cal and trial courts, according to his budget proposal.