Supervisors Approve Cabazon `Revitalization Act'

RIVERSIDE - The Board of Supervisors approved a plan to obligate future Riverside County sales tax revenue generated at the Cabazon malls for increased law enforcement in the community and improvements along a 19-mile stretch of Interstate 10 that's notorious for traffic jams.    

The Cabazon Community Revitalization Act introduced last month by Supervisors Marion Ashley and John Benoit, whose districts merge in the area, will replace some of the monies lost when redevelopment agencies were put out of business by the Legislature and governor in 2011.   

Additional losses have resulted from the near insolvency of the California Indian Gaming Special Distribution Fund, which offsets the impact on communities from gambling operations.  

The board postponed action on the CCRA last month to give staff time to come up with a policy framework specifying on what projects the sales tax receipts shall be spent.

The Executive Office drew up a framework stating that ``future growth in
general fund sales and use tax revenue'' should be available for allocation
to a ``capital project that addresses an extraordinary circumstance of noted
regional significance.''

Under the CCRA, 25 percent of sales tax revenue generated from the expansion of the Cabazon Outlets mall and the adjoining Desert Hills Premium Outlets mall on Seminole Drive will go toward funding components of the Interstate 10 Emergency Action Plan and beefing up sheriff's patrols.

Both malls are in the process of expanding, adding 252,000 square feet of retail space over the next two years, according to Ashley.

Based on consumer activity over the last few years, the supervisor calculated that the expansions would increase sales tax income by $2.76 million annually. Twenty-five percent of that total is $690,000.

The Cabazon malls generate nearly 50 percent of the unincorporated
county's annual sales tax receipts, Ashley said. He emphasized that while 25
percent of the tax increment would be dedicated to infrastructure and law
enforcement needs, 75 percent would remain in the general fund, under the CCRA.

Ashley pointed out that with more stores comes more people and more opportunity crimes. Hence the Cabazon community will need at least one additional deputy year-round, as well as more deputies to work during holidays and  special events.

Ashley and Benoit are advocating that the lion's share of CCRA money go toward improvements along the I-10 corridor between Banning and Palm Springs. The segment suffers periodic traffic jams that can last for six to eight hours -- thus the need for greater funding to expedite implementation of the I-10 Emergency Action Plan, the supervisors said.

The plan, approved in October 2012, calls for the addition of frontage roads, turnabouts and other means to lessen the impact of massive backups between Cabazon and Palm Springs, where alternate east-west routes are virtually nonexistent.

County transportation officials, Caltrans and representatives from the Morongo Band of Mission Indians are coordinating work on emergency action plan projects, one of the most important of which is a by-pass road connecting Hathaway Street in Banning to Apache Trail in Cabazon.

During the board's Nov. 26 meeting, Supervisors Kevin Jeffries and Jeff Stone worried about how the diversion of future sales tax proceeds would affect unincorporated communities in other parts of the county. 

Jeffries worried about ``balkanizing'' the county's revenues, with one district receiving more support than another.

Stone echoed that concern today, calling sales taxes the ``Holy Grail'' of general fund discretionary income that should only be diverted to projects with ``extraordinary'' need.

According to the CCRA, each proposed use of sales tax funds will require a four-fifths vote by the board.

The 25 percent set-aside of tax increment for the Cabazon area would last until 2033. The act would allow for bonding against future sales tax receipts beginning in 2018.

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