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State budget to squeeze Rocklin

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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The state budget compromise before the state Legislature today was made on the backs of Rocklin property owners. While they won’t see a change on their tax bill, the city of Rocklin will be forking over its share of property taxes, gas taxes and redevelopment funds to the state as a mandated loan to help bridge the $26-billion state budget deficit. The proposed budget compromise going before the state Assembly today includes borrowing $2 billion from local governments’ property taxes, of which Rocklin would be required to contribute $1.2 million, according to the city. “It is shameful to think that local governments that have painfully worked to keep their financial position strong would be called upon to shore up the state’s reckless fiscal policies,” said Vice Mayor Scott Yuill. Another $1 billion will come from gasoline taxes, of which $900,000 is Rocklin’s share, that is used for street maintenance and repair. “They are completely undermining our road maintenance program,” said City Manager Carlos Urrutia. “They are taking everything we use to pay compensation for road maintenance crews.” The state is also targeting redevelopment funds in Rocklin, to the tune of $1.3 million. “This is going to head right into court,” Urrutia said. “There is no way the cities and the California redevelopment agencies are going to sit by and watch this. Everyone is going to sue them.” The city has already cut its labor force, pushed employees into early retirement, froze salaries, contracted out services and dipped into reserves to bridge its own revenue gap and balance the budget. Now that’s up in the air. “What can we do?” Urrutia said. “We have to cut services across the board and that includes safety. It’s going to impact every citizen.” The city council recently held a budget retreat to discuss further ways to shrink city government. Yuill admits even though the next round of cuts will hurt, the city may be damaged in another way. “It’s even more tragic for Rocklin because unlike most cities, its credit rating is among the best in the state,” Yuill said. “This would devastate us and cripple our ability to borrow money. Our road maintenance, infrastructure needs, police, fire, parks and redevelopment areas will be put in an impossible position.” Since the early 1990s, the state has seized more than $8 billion of city property tax revenues statewide to fund the budget. In fiscal year 2007-08 alone the state seized $895 million in city property taxes statewide and an additional $350 million in local redevelopment funds seized in FY 2008-09, according to city documents. State law now requires repayment of property taxes borrowed from city governments within three years. State Assemblyman Ted Gaines, who represents the city of Rocklin, said the tax grab is a deal breaker which will force him to vote no on the budget. “In my opinion we have not gone far enough in reducing the size of government to right-size it based on the revenue coming in,” Gaines said. In a statement from California’s 4th District Sen. Sam Aanestad, he said he is torn between getting a budget passed and making the substantial raid of local funds which he said he does not agree with. Sen. Aanestad refused to say how he’ll vote. Yuill encourages Rocklin residents to send letters of strong opposition to Assemblyman Gaines and Sen. Aanestad. Jon Brines can be reached at jonathanbrines@yahoo.com.