Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sonoma County's Pyrrhic Victory on Redevelopment.

The Sacramento County Superior Court has issued its tentative ruling concerning whether the Highway 12 and Roseland Village redevelopment projects are (were?) enforceable obligations, and whether the County's "Successor" Agency is entitled to have ~$2.2 million returned.

I think it'd be easy to conclude that the County won, because the tentative ruling is that the projects are enforceable obligations.  But it doesn't take 11 pages to say someone won and someone lost if it's clear.

Charles Dickens had a
thought or two about
legal Pyrrhic Victories.
As you'd expect, the County gets its bad news at the end of the tentative ruling, because the Court found that the County has not met its burden to show that it is entitled to reimbursement. Further, the "administrative expenses" that the County claimed didn't pass muster.

The Court does note that the County may have self-help remedies it could try to use to obtain the approximately $2.2 million redistributed to the "taxing entities." However, I think the Court is well aware that the "taxing entities" here are not faceless. Most of the $2.2 million the County seeks would merely be money moved from one County pocket to another -- with one important exception. When redevelopment ended, 34% of the dollars at issue for the Highway 12 project went to Sonoma Valley's schools -- in this case, probably about $400,000 (about another $400,000 went to schools in Roseland due to the Roseland Village project).

There are any number of ways to try to conceal that basic point, but the "bonus" money funding redevelopment was always coming from somewhere, and school budgets are that place, given Sonoma Valley's basic aid status.

The idea that the Court is going to order Sonoma Valley's schools to pay a $400,000 "reimbursement" to the County of Sonoma is ridiculous. As a practical matter, the Court is just not going to do that, if only due to the consistent failure of the State to meet its Prop. 98 constitutional funding requirements for years on end. Which means the County's suit was pretty much pointless, if the tentative ruling (you can read it here and the final ruling will be here) stands.