As redevelopment agencies brace for dissolution, the City of Union City may have to make some tough decisions.
According to city staff, the City of Union City stands to lose up to $4 million a year in redevelopment dollars when nearly 400 agencies throughout the state cease to exist on Feb. 1.
The money was used to partially fund 34 city and support staff, according to a report presented to City Council Tuesday night.
Among the positions at-risk of losing funding are four community police officers, two Youth and Family Services intervention counselors and several Economic and Community Development Department staff members.
When the local redevelopment agency is dismantled next month, the City of Union City will take over as the successor agency to uphold the agency’s debt and contractual obligations. It will have to report to an oversight committee, which may not consider the at-risk positions funded by redevelopment as obligations.
“We will have to convince the oversight board or state controller that these are legitimate uses for redevelopment dollars,” said City Manager Larry Cheeves.
If not, the city will have to find other resources or be forced to terminate some of the positions, said Cheeves, whose position is also funded partially by redevelopment.
“We’re exploring several avenues to keep the services,” he said.
Police chief Brian Foley said cutting the community policing unit would not be an option. The unit assists with street enforcement, runs the crime-free housing program and overseas Neighborhood Watch.
“They’re too critical,” Foley said. “We’ll have to prioritize our resources.”
With the loss of redevelopment revenue, the city may not be able to assist in funding the and , two vital community services.
According to Richard Digre, administrative services director for the City of Union City, the city provides Centro de Servicios, a Decoto-based nonprofit, with $50,000 a year and the Chamber with $40,000.
The financial stress fell upon the city when and divert $1.7 billion to the state to close its budget gap.
The move will have a detrimental effect on Union City, which has used redevelopment funds for vital development projects. Redevelopment has stimulated job growth, improved blighted areas and supported transit-oriented developments, Cheeves said. Many local projects, including , Union Landing and several affordable housing communities, were made possible through the support of the local redevelopment agency.
The city has played defense since the battle with redevelopment began early last year.
In February, the agency in order to continue its projects. However, provisions of one of the two bills that eliminated redevelopment voided any agreements made between redevelopment agencies and cities after Jan. 1 of last year.
“If we are allowed to retain these funds, then we will be able to support the services and employees we currently support with redevelopment dollars for a greater period of time, Cheeves said.
If those funds are stripped, the city will look to its operating budget to pay for some of the at-risk services.
Funds from , the half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in Nov. 2010, may alleviate some of the burden, Cheeves said. While the city promised to use the funds to restore previously eliminated services, money was set aside due to the uncertain outcome of the redevelopment lawsuit.
There may also be hope for redevelopment agencies in Senate Bill 659, which would extend the agencies’ life until April 15 and allow time for the California Redevelopment Association and League of California Cities — who joined Union City in the recent lawsuit against state lawmakers — to introduce legislature to resurrect redevelopment in some form.
The bill, however, would have to be passed before Feb. 1, the date which agencies are currently set to dissolve.
“It’s a hard and fast deadline,” Cheeves said. “There are a lot of things still up in the air.”