Supervisors seek policy defining `Extraordinary Needs'

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - A proposal to spend a quarter of future Riverside County sales tax revenue generated at the Cabazon malls on better roads and enhanced law enforcement was set aside today by the Board of Supervisors out of concern the money might be spent on other than ``extraordinary'' items.

Supervisors Marion Ashley and John Benoit sought board approval of the
Cabazon Community Revitalization Act to replace monies lost when redevelopment
agencies, which funded public projects through property tax gains, were
abolished by the governor and Legislature in 2011.

Under the CCRA, 25 percent of all new sales tax revenue collected from
the Cabazon Outlets mall and the adjoining Desert Hills Premium Outlets mall on
Seminole Drive would 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 is $690,000.

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

The supervisor pointed out that with more stores, comes more people and
more opportunity crimes. Hence the Cabazon community will need a great law
enforcement presence. He added that the I-10 corridor through the area suffers
periodic traffic jams that can last for ``six to eight hours'' -- thus the need
for greater funding to propel the I-10 Emergency Action Plan forward.

The plan was approved last year and 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.

``This CCRA would be a tool to help speed up infrastructure build-out,''
Ashley said. ``This is important for the entire county. The I-10 is a vital

Supervisors Kevin Jeffries and Jeff Stone were generally supportive of
the CCRA concept but worried about not having strict guidelines on how to spend
the increased sales tax revenue, especially when other unincorporated
communities in the county stand to lose.

``If we blankly approve this, we'll be shooting from the hip,'' Stone
said. ``I understand the spirit of this proposal. But we would be cannibalizing
sales tax revenue that pays for police and fire services countywide. We need to
go about this in a more methodical way ... (defining) what are extraordinary

The supervisor said he would be more inclined to spend additional sales
tax money on a project-by-project basis, with a four-fifths vote of the board.

Jeffries agreed: ``I don't want to balkanize Riverside County's
revenues. I appreciate the effort here, but I've got unincorporated areas in my
district, such as Meadowbrook and Mead Valley, that are dirt poor. There's
little infrastructure -- and no money to support building it.''

After further discussion, the board agreed to reconsider the CCRA after
it is amended to include a policy that spells out the process by which future
revenues will be appropriated.

That proposed policy is slated to be drafted and brought before the
board by Dec. 10.   

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