California’s newest incorporated city gave notice to the state this week that because of financial problems, it can’t meet a December 31 deadline to create a General Plan, the municipal blueprint required to maintain cityhood.
Jurupa Valley, in Southern California, has been on the verge of financial ruin since the day it incorporated in 2011. It and three other Riverside County cities, Eastvale, Menifee and Wildomar, were all whipsawed in June of that year when the state voted to stop sending them a portion of vehicle registration fees.
The vote came two days before Jurupa Valley incorporated. The money had been used by the state to compensate new cities that don’t receive the same property tax monies older cities get. New cities were to get the subsidy for the first five years of their existence to help get them in the early going.
But the state grabbed $18 million of the fees for local public safety programs and Jurupa Valley was instantly screwed. The city was counting on receiving $6.8 million in 2012, about 47% of its annual operating budget. State lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a bill to restore the money, Assembly Bill 1098, but Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it.
Newly-incorporated cities have two and a half years to draw up their first General Plan. Eastvale managed to do it using in-house staff and a voluntary citizens advisory committee. But Jurupa Valley has been so financially devastated, it lacked the wherewithal to do even that.
Mayor Verne Lauritzen told the Los Angeles Times the city, which had been debated cityhood for 30 years, would have been just fine if the state hadn’t cut off its money. “That's the disappointment: playing by the rules, only to get slugged in the gut,” he said.
According to the Times, the city of 94,000 does not own any property, contracts out its police and fire protection and relies on contractors for most of its city hall staffing and basic city services. The city estimates it has enough money to last another two years under the current conditions before having to disincorporate.
It could start the process this month. Jurupa Valley would be the first California city in decades to do that.