BY ALICIA ROBINSON
STAFF WRITER
arobinson@pe.com

Published: 15 January 2012 08:09 PM

Most Inland local governments have determined who will take over the obligations of their redevelopment agencies, but officials said many aspects of what happens next remain unclear.

How and when must they sell property and other assets? Which obligations will be paid? How many redevelopment employees will lose their jobs?

Cities and counties with redevelopment agencies are struggling to sort out state legislation, upheld by the state Supreme Court last month, that disbands redevelopment agencies and has successors wrap up their work.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who led the charge to end redevelopment, and other critics have said the agencies subsidize wealthy developers at the expense of the state budget. The diversion of local property taxes to redevelopment forces the state to make up the difference to schools.

Communities in Riverside and San Bernardino counties have some of the highest debt levels of the state’s nearly 400 agencies, and local officials don’t seem to agree with each other or state authorities on how the legislation affects them.

“This legislation was put together at the 11th hour, it was oversimplified and over-generalized, and it left more questions than answers about how to unwind 400 government agencies in a very, very short time,” Riverside County Supervisor John Benoit said.

A few things seem clear. Most agencies’ first step was to name a successor to take over management of ongoing redevelopment projects and debts. Inland communities including Highland, Loma Linda, San Bernardino, Norco, Hemet, Riverside city and county have named themselves the successor agencies.

Under the court decision, Friday was the deadline for communities to pass a resolution if they didn’t want to become the successor agency. Most in the state are choosing to take on the duties, with only about a dozen or so opting out, said Jim Kennedy, interim executive director of the California Redevelopment Association.

On Feb. 1, all redevelopment agencies are officially dissolved and the successors take over paying any “enforceable obligations” using property tax dollars that would have gone to the agencies.

But even paying those obligations is a thorny issue. The legislation directs the creation of seven-member oversight boards for each agency that can decide the validity of redevelopment contracts and transactions that took place after Jan. 1, 2011.

OVERSIGHT BOARDS

The oversight boards must be in place by May 1, and several Inland communities said they haven’t yet named the members they get to choose. Cities such as Riverside or Highland can pick two members; the county appoints two; and the county superintendent, community college district and largest other special taxing district each name one member.

Though the oversight boards officially start their work in May, local officials may want to form them sooner, because the boards need to sign off the list of debts the successor agencies want paid, said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the state Department of Finance. Lists of all legally recognized debts and obligations must be filed with the state by April 15.

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