10:27 PM PST on Tuesday, February 22, 2011

By JULISSA McKINNON
The Press-Enterprise

A Perris councilman is suggesting exhausting his city’s redevelopment funds before the state can.

Mark Yarbrough called on his City Council colleagues and city staff to use up Perris’ redevelopment money before a proposal by Gov. Jerry Brown to eliminate redevelopment agencies can take effect. Billions of redevelopment dollars not already committed to projects would be redirected to other priorities.

“If we need to have more council meetings, we’ll do what we have to do to exhaust the resource and use it where we need it,” Yarbrough said at a recent Perris City Council meeting.

Other agencies are taking a similar approach. Last month the Riverside County supervisors committed $155 million in redevelopment bonds to projects.

Perris has about $26 million in redevelopment funds, most of which is budgeted for various projects. But just budgeting redevelopment funds would not protect them. The money would have to be committed to repaying redevelopment bonds or beholden to a project contract.

Perris’ Assistant City Manager Ron Carr said city officials are hoping to get as many projects as they can under contract before June, when the fiscal year ends.

Perris officials say redevelopment money has helped jump-start much-needed development and generated jobs in a city with a 22 percent unemployment rate, one of the region’s highest.

Critics locally and statewide have said that redevelopment too often serves as a public handout to developers, and that the resulting jobs and amenities don’t justify the public expense.

Officials say without redevelopment, Perris’ economy would be worse.

The redevelopment-funded Small Business Incentives Program has attracted six businesses, including the Rio Ranch Market grocery store and the Stretch Forming Corp., a manufacturer of metal parts for the aerospace industry. Michael McDermott, the city’s redevelopment and economic development manager, said the six new businesses have created 542 jobs.

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