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6 Tax-Strapped Cities to Share $1.2-Million Grant From State

September 29, 1987|MARK GLADSTONE | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Four cities in Ventura County and two cities in the San Fernando Valley area are expected to share about $1.2 million next year in additional revenue as a result of a bill signed into law over the weekend by Gov. George Deukmejian.

The legislation, tied to an overhaul of state court funding, will aid cities with little or no property tax revenue. The amount will be increased each year over the next 10 years.

Penny M. Bohannon, Ventura County's capital lobbyist, estimated that in the first year, Thousand Oaks would receive more than $500,000; Simi Valley between $350,000 and $400,000; Camarillo about $250,000; and Moorpark between $30,000 and $40,000.

In the Valley area, Westlake Village would get about $24,000 and Agoura Hills about $16,000.

But critics argue that the new law fails to spell out standards for the awarding of the funds. "It looks as though it's a smorgasbord of cities without any rationale," said Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach), chairwoman of the Senate Local Government Committee.

In an interview Monday, Bergeson added that when the Legislature reconvenes in January, she plans to introduce a bill "that will set specific criteria" for cities.

Hasty Adoption

Further, Bergeson voiced reservations about the way aid to the cities was hastily inserted into a court-reform bill earlier this month, on the last night of the 1987 legislative session.

Said Bergeson: "I have major concern about how it was handled. We have been dealing with it in committee," but the specific proposal was not heard by her panel.

Instead, the provision to aid the cities was hammered out in private discussions between Democratic and Republican legislative leaders. They linked it to the landmark bill to shift the burden of trial-court costs from counties to the state and create 109 new judgeships, including up to six in the San Fernando Valley and one in Ventura County.

On Saturday, Deukmejian signed the bill by Sen. William Lockyer (D-Hayward). The law could free about $375 million statewide for other programs, including aid to cities that levy little or no property tax.

Such cities maintain that they have been caught in a fiscal bind since passage of the tax-cutting Proposition 13 in 1978, which made it difficult for them to levy new taxes. They say they have grown but have not had the new revenue necessary to pay for services.

4-Year Battle

Lobbyist Joe Gonsalves, who counts the cities of Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and Camarillo among his clients, is among those who pushed for the aid to the cities. Earlier this month, Gonsalves, a former Norwalk assemblyman, said: "We've been harping on it for about four years and the Legislature finally wanted to deal with it."

Aid will be increased by 10% over the next decade. When fully implemented, the bill could cost the state about $220 million a year, according to legislative estimates.

Ventura County's Bohannon suggested that her county will be harder hit than others by the revenue loss because "we have three very wealthy no-property-tax cities," Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and Camarillo.

Thousand Oaks Mayor Frank Schillo said while his city has a $42-million budget, all funds are committed to projects such as the civic center expansion.

Further, he said the city is "not hoarding money for a rainy day" and needs the extra funds to improve streets and other public works in neighborhoods the city has annexed or plans to annex from the county.

Times Staff Writer Sam Enriquez contributed to this story.

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