By Liset Márquez Staff Writer
Created: 02/18/2011 06:18:26 PM PST

ONTARIO – In an effort to secure its future redevelopment funds, the City Council has agreed to shift the obligation of redevelopment work and the payment of more than $335million in anticipated redevelopment funding to the city.

Ontario’s action turns over responsibility for the Redevelopment Agency’s participation in projects over a five-year span to the city. The funding is to be used for capital and public improvements, as well as building affordable housing.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who is facing a $25billion budget deficit, has proposed doing away with redevelopment agencies and diverting their funds – more than $5billion a year – to pay for basic services such as education and public safety.

“As we looked at the situation we felt this is a step we could use to continue to implement our project and programs,” said John Andrews, the city’s Redevelopment Agency director.

Andrews said the projects are vital to helping the city’s economy recover by creating jobs.

As his staff report notes, the council’s action “will contractually commit available resources and projected Net Tax Increment” from the city’s redevelopment areas. Redevelopment funds that are contractually obligated presumably would be spared from state take-away.

In 2010, Ontario’s agency received $49.7million from the state. Those funds were used toward the debt service on bonds the city has on existing redevelopment projects, Andrews said.

Ontario is in the midst of implementing several projects in its Five-Year Implementation Plan for each of its five redevelopment project areas. These are projects that “may or may not happen on their own terms,” Andrews said.

Councilwoman Debra Dorst-Porada called Tuesday’s action by the city a necessity.

“It’s important to protect investments and future projects,” she said. “We have been able to use redevelopment funds wisely.”

Without the funds key projects like the ones proposed to help jump-start development in the downtown would be non-existent, Dorst-Porada said.

If Brown ends redevelopment agencies, than future development in Ontario would be bleak, she said.

“It would be very slow for a long time,” Dorst-Porada said. “We have more work to be done and redevelopment is a great tool.”

California Redevelopment Law, Health and Safety Code Section 33220, allows for the agency to cooperate with cities to aid in planning and development of redevelopment projects.

This is not the first time Ontario has taken over a redevelopment project. In the past the agency has agreed to transfer a specific project to the city, Andrews said.

As for the validity of the move, that still needs to be seen, Andrews said, adding that he was unsure if the action may be blocked by the governor.

“It’s hard to say,” he said. “That’s a question for the attorneys to answer at some point.”

The agreement is the latest in a number of moves by the city to protect its redevelopment funds.

For more than a year, the city of Ontario has been in the process of merging all five redevelopment areas into one large redevelopment district.

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