10:00 PM PDT on Friday, July 1, 2011

By SANDRA STOKLEY and JIM MILLER
The Press-Enterprise

A day after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that could spell insolvency for Riverside County’s newest cities, dignitaries and residents gathered on Friday to usher in a new era for Jurupa Valley: as Riverside County’s 28th city.

The swearing-in ceremony and first official Jurupa Valley City Council meeting at Patriot High School gave little hint of the behind-the-scenes efforts going on as officials of Eastvale, Wildomar, Menifee and Jurupa Valley scrambled to undo the potential for financial catastrophe when Brown signed Senate Bill 89 on Thursday.

The bill, part of an $86 billion general fund package passed by Democrats late Tuesday, takes city vehicle license-fee revenue to help pay for local law enforcement grants. New cities receive extra license-fee money to get established and officials have said its loss will force layoffs, insolvency or even disincorporation.

Jurupa Valley Councilman Verne Lauritzen said early Friday afternoon, before the meeting, that the four cities had hired lobbying firm Joe A. Gonsalves & Son to argue their case to legislators.

Plans also were under way to send officials of the impacted cities to Sacramento to meet with lawmakers in person.

“Our intent is to go to Sacramento and meet with some of these folks so they can understand the devastation this has caused for these four cities,” Lauritzen said.

Eastvale Mayor Adam Rush said the hope was to introduce a bill early next week that would carve out an exemption from SB 89 for the four Riverside County cities.

In an interview Thursday, Brown left open the possibility that he would sign possible legislation to restore the license fee money.

“I’ll take a look at it. But what about restoring all sorts of kinds of cuts?” Brown said.

Friday, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, the chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, blamed Republicans for the cities’ predicament. The cuts could have been avoided, he said, if two GOP lawmakers in each house had agreed to a ballot measure to extend higher taxes on sales, vehicles and license fees approved as part of a 2009 budget deal.

The League of California Cities’ board of directors will discuss the license-fee shift early next week. A lawsuit is among the possible responses, spokeswoman Eva Spiegel said Friday.

The league estimates that the four cities will lose a combined $14 million in 2011-2012: Eastvale would lose $2.9 million, Jurupa Valley would lose $5.7 million, Menifee would lose $3.6 million and Wildomar would lose $1.7 million.

The hit to Jurupa Valley is 40 percent of its $14.4 million general fund. Eastvale would lose 33 percent of its $8.9 million general fund budget.

But there was only one oblique reference to the crisis engulfing the four cities, including the nascent city of Jurupa Valley, at Friday’s events, during comments by Councilwoman Laura Roughton after she was elected mayor.

“I’m looking to the future despite any and all challenges that may come our way. And they already are,” she said.

But that was it.

In a ceremony that blended emotion, civic pride and even humor — Roughton’s husband presented her with a windbreaker that proclaimed her JV Mayor – Roughton, Lauritzen and their council colleagues Micheal Goodland, Brad Hancock and Frank Johnston were sworn in by Second District Supervisor John Tavaglione.

The five presented small keychains with a ceremonial key to the city of Jurupa Valley to groups and individuals who had helped during the four-year effort leading up to the March 8 incorporation vote.

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