There are certain situations where I can’t help but read something that just makes me go “huh?” The most recent of which has been the complete lack of intellectual curiosity by the media and Turlock City Council concerning using redevelopment agency money to renovate Joe Debely Stadium. In the last few weeks both the city council and the school board have taken steps to renovate the field using redevelopment funds.
The Redevelopment Agency allows cities to borrow funds against the future increases in the value of property taxes in order to remove blight from the agencies boundaries, and in certain conditions outside of those boundaries. Examples of recent uses of redevelopment agency funds have been to lay out the beginning infrastructure for the West Side Industrial Specific Plan in order to allow businesses to locate in the WISP area. Another example is the building of Fire Station 1, both of which have raised the property values in the surrounding areas. These two examples are exactly what redevelopment bonds are designed for.
Redevelopment bond money should not be used to fund projects that do not create an increase value to the surrounding community because the borrowed money must be paid back with interest and the only way to do that is to create more revenue than existed before. Some will argue that renovating the stadium creates better quality of life for the entire community and they may be correct but that is neither the goal nor the function of the redevelopment agency. Redevelopment agency money needs to be spent in targeted areas to create more value in order to pay the bonds back.
This situation shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the economy, the budget process and the ability to use logic to solve problems. I attended TurlockHigh School and can attest to the need to renovate the stadium. No doubt about it the stadium is in need of a makeover especially with two high schools using the facility along with Turlock Youth Football and a variety of other organizations. This however is the wrong way to go about it. In order to renovate the stadium the school board needs to go to the voters and increase property taxes to do it and not in an underhanded way through the redevelopment agency, which will have no hope to pay back the funds because there is no revenue stream with which to do so.
Politically this is a great move for the city council they get to claim to be the heroes who renovated the stadium and most likely will not be around to figure out how to pay back the borrowed money. But process matters, especially when it comes to paying back creditors. Financially the only hope is that the state takes the redevelopment agency money, as it appears they are poised to do,(wow, I never thought I would ever in my life write that) so that the council does not make a decision that completely destroys the redevelopment agency for the future.