Redevelopment important to infrastructure

With the announcement of his proposed new budget, Gov. Jerry Brown is calling for the closing of the individual redevelopment agencies across the state, and tapping those redevelopment funds to fill a portion of the state budget gap.

Well, what exactly is “redevelopment?” Redevelopment is a format that is permitted under current state law whereby individual municipalities can form redevelopment project areas in areas of blight in order to provide planning and financing tools to eradicate that blight, and to improve infrastructure, do capital projects and create affordable housing.

An interesting part of redevelopment is that it is essentially self-funding. That is, no money from the General Fund of municipalities goes into the redevelopment agencies, nor does the state provide any funding. Rather, under redevelopment law, the existing property-tax base of a proposed redevelopment project area is determined and that amount of money (called the “tax base”) continues to be paid, in full, to all taxing authorities.

The increase in property taxes paid above this tax base is called the “tax increment” (presumptively created, to a large degree, as a result of new projects created by the new agency) and a portion of the tax increment is retained by the Redevelopment Agency. At the end of the redevelopment project area term, all future taxes revert to the prior taxing agencies.

The agencies use the portion of the tax increment to fund a variety of publically beneficial endeavors. In Burbank, when the city needed to replace its aging police and fire headquarters buildings in the 1990s, it put a bond issue on the ballot, which was rejected by the citizens of Burbank.

The city built the new state-of-the-art facility anyway, but paid for it completely out of Redevelopment Agency funds. When the school district needed $23 million as a part of its overall capital improvement plan, the city assisted, paying the entire amount out of redevelopment funds.

All of the public parking structures in downtown Burbank, all of our rebuilt fire stations, and virtually all of the affordable housing units within our city were made possible by the use of Redevelopment Agency funds.

This tax increment is also used for site assemblage and development promotion, and directs development and growth that is used as a planning and economic-development tool. For example, the Burbank Town Center and AMC Entertainment Complex are projects that could not have been built without the efforts of redevelopment.

Whether redevelopment survives the upcoming state budget battle is not known. However, if it is lost, as suggested by Brown, many of the valuable benefits that cities like Burbank have enjoyed as a result of the application of redevelopment will be lost with it. And the community will need to find other ways to build, maintain and improve infrastructure, as well as promote economic development.

Gary Olson

Burbank

Editor’s note: Olson is president/chief executive of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce.

Bonuses are added to pension totals

Burbank taxpayers need to be aware that the city’s merit-based bonuses given to some, not all, city employees are the gifts that just keep on giving (“Pensions pinch city purse,” March 2).

After it was revealed in the Leader in December that these bonuses were being awarded (“Burbank employees in line for bonuses, Dec. 10), I realized that the bonus money would be added to the employees’ gross annual wages, and if that employee was at or near retirement, the bonus pay, as well as certain overtime, unused vacation pay and other compensation, would increase the person’s monthly pension.

So not only are taxpayers shelling out for the bonus, they are continually paying the employee’s enhanced retirement check. Is it any wonder the public is outraged at the escalated costs of civil service pensions?

Molly Shore

Burbank

No change possible until Golonski is gone

In my opinion, the Leader and News-Press are doing a great community service in publishing the articles by Ron Kaye.

Kaye’s article on the Burbank Police Department is a good kick-start for a discussion of the problems at the Burbank Police Department. My belief is that the vast majority of Burbank officers are high-quality professionals, and my concern is less with them as individuals than it is with their leadership.

One disagreement I have with Kaye is that he attributed the mistreatment of minorities to the values of the community as a whole. I do not believe that is the case because it is neither my value, nor is it that of any other Burbank resident who I know. In fact, until it was reported in the Leader, I was unaware that there was any alleged mistreatment of minorities by Burbank police.

Instead of looking at the values of the community, let’s look instead to the leadership of Burbank Police Department. The police chief is appointed by the city manager, and the city manager is appointed by the City Council. So, who is to blame?

The problems with Burbank police didn’t happen overnight, so let’s look at the last 18 years. During this time there have been innumerable council members, three city managers, and at least four police chiefs. What is the one constant? That would be Councilman Dave Golonski, who has been in office for nearly two decades. Golonski dominates the council and until he is voted out or is somehow removed from office, don’t look for any real changes in the Burbank Police Department.

Ron Vanderford

Burbank

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