LONG BEACH — The City Council plans to ask its Redevelopment Agency to consider using redevelopment tax funds to pay for construction of child-care centers and other social service needs within project areas.
At the request of the League of Women Voters, the council on Tuesday discussed setting aside a portion of the property taxes generated in the city's four redevelopment areas for services that could include emergency shelters for the homeless and low-cost housing.
The City Council did not endorse the idea, but instead passed the matter to the Redevelopment Agency for consideration.
Councilwoman Jan Hall joined in the unanimous vote, but later conceded that the council took the politically safe route and sent the matter to another agency without any real backing.
"We misled the public because we didn't do anything," Hall said.
But with the vote Tuesday, council members ignored the city manager's recommendation to merely "receive and file" the request.
City Manager James Hankla, saying there are no spare funds available, called the idea "infeasible."
The agency already has a $148-million debt and is still feeling the effects of Proposition 13, which resulted in a two-thirds cut in tax increment funds, Hankla said. Even if the money were available, he continued, state law mandates that the tax increments be used for redevelopment activities that primarily benefit the project area, and not for social services.
While the Redevelopment Agency cannot pay to run a facility such as a day-care center, Hall acknowledged, it can pay to build such a center in a redevelopment area.
Vice Mayor Warren Harwood said after the meeting: "We don't want to know how you can't do it. We want to know how you can do it."
The city of Los Angeles is paying for some of the same social services with its redevelopment money, Harwood said, adding that he would like Long Beach to follow suit. Harwood said he wants to see the money coming from the Redevelopment Agency's budget because some of the agency's projects in downtown are the ones that "dried up some low-income housing and displaced people."
"I think that if we felt there was nothing that could be done, we would have received and filed it," Harwood said.
Despite their unanimous vote, not all council members felt the same way. Mayor Ernie Kell said after the meeting that he agreed with Hankla that "the funds aren't there."
During the 1986-87 fiscal year, the agency's redevelopment areas generated slightly more than $10 million in property taxes. This year, the agency has close to $38 million accumulated. But the large pot does not mean there is extra money, Hankla said.
"The current and projected demands upon Redevelopment Agency funds far exceed the funds available," Hankla wrote in a report to the council. "Because redevelopment is, by its nature, large scale, individual expenditures or investments are commonly in the millions of dollars. It is sometimes necessary to accumulate funds for months, or even years, in order to have the amounts needed for critical projects."
In a related issue, the council on Tuesday approved hiring the Alliance of Businesses for Childcare Development as the city's child-care consultant. The vote to spend $75,000 to hire the public, nonprofit corporation is the result of a recommendation last year by the Mayor and City Council's Child-Care Task Force to have a city child-care consultant.