By Caleb Brown
SPECIAL TO THE APPLE VALLEY REVIEW
Apple Valley, along with the rest of the High Desert, has benefited from California’s redevelopment agencies. Along with many other projects in the area, RDA funds provided assistance to develop the Jess Ranch Marketplace, which has brought many valued businesses to Apple Valley. However, Gov. Jerry Brown and the California High Courts have chosen to eliminate RDAs, which further underscores the prevailing belief that Sacramento is incapable of doing what is right for the people of California.
On the surface, Gov. Brown’s decision to shutdown 425 redevelopment agencies throughout the state seems like a valiant effort to cut spending from the state’s runaway budget. However, this is not the case. The purpose of RDAs has been to help municipalities redevelop blighted areas using money from bonds backed by future property taxes. Towns and cities were able to redevelop blighted areas with the assurance that future property taxes from those areas (about 12 percent of property taxes statewide) would be channeled back to them to cover the costs. However, the state courts have decided to do away with RDAs, leaving municipalities out to dry.
The public perception is that the decision to eliminate RDAs will reduce state spending. This, however, is wrong. About $1.7 billion of property tax revenue that previously funded RDAs will simply be divided among counties, cities, and school districts to be used for other purposes. One of these purposes being to pay for the state’s massive public employee pension obligations, which have grown $250 million this year alone. The state’s decision to cut the agencies entirely is nothing but a shameless grab for tax revenue underneath the façade of spending cuts.
Let’s be clear. RDAs are not perfect and are in need of serious reform. Many towns have abused RDAs by stretching the definition of blight, allowing for serious misuse of funds. However, RDAs with the proper reforms are worth keeping.
RDAs have helped Apple Valley improve existing areas, as well as develop new ones. Preserving RDAs directly impacts the future of Apple Valley and the resources at its disposal to continue proposed projects. As a long time Apple Valley resident, I have respected the town’s commitment to high development standards. Officials have not hastily approved building projects; rather, they have set high standards for the town and only approved projects that meet those standards in regard to lot size, style, and materials. This attention to detail has led to quality development in Apple Valley that is consistent with the town’s spirit. It is my sincere hope that state leaders reverse their decision to cut RDAs so that Apple Valley can have every resource at its disposal to maintain its vision and high standards for the future of development.
Nevertheless, as of now, RDAs are gone and its time to adjust. Now, more than ever, is when business leaders and local officials need to work together to redevelop areas within Apple Valley. The Village Property and Business Improvement District is a great example of this, and it has made a noticeable difference in historic Apple Valley. With RDA funds disappearing, it is vital that the Village PBID be successfully renewed through its upcoming vote. Moreover, if we want to see Apple Valley flourish, then it is our responsibility as citizens to support businesses in the Village and invest in our town’s future.
Caleb Brown is an Apple Valley resident.