Grand Terrace

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 12/04/13, 6:39 PM PST |

GRAND TERRACE >> A month after voters convincingly rejected a divisive attempt to pass a tax measure — without which, it was warned, the city risked collapse — officials here say they’ve learned for the first time of money from the state Department of Finance that covers a large portion of the expected deficit.

The city received more than $300,000 in January and more than $200,000 more in June that it wasn’t expecting, causing it to re-examine the model used by a consultant and conclude that the city can expect more than $700,000 per year that wasn’t part of its original projections, plus about $500,000 in one-time money, said Steve Elam of Wildan Financial Services, who functions as the city’s finance director.

For a city where a $1.5 million tax measure was described as do-or-die — die meaning closing both city parks, closing the senior center and cutting staff hours to a level that already led many to leave — that’s a huge swing.

“The city still had fiscal challenges, but they clearly were not in a fiscal emergency status,” Elam said at a special meeting of the City Council on Tuesday, despite the fact that in June the city declared a fiscal emergency so that it would legally be able to put a tax increase on the ballot for November’s off-year election.

That led to pointed and suspicious questions from residents and elected officials, none of whom said they were told about the money until after the election.

“This is just simply inexcusable,” said Councilman Bernardo Sandoval. “For most cities, they could take the impact. Because our general fund is so small and because of the history of using Redevelopment Agency funds to pay for operating expenses, these things should have been brought to our attention — even the potential of having these revenues should have been brought to our attention.”

City Manager Betsy Adams said she didn’t want to say anything until she understood why the city was getting the money and whether it would continue.

That task was left with another consulting company, Diamond Bar-based HdL Coren & Coe. David Schey, a principal with HdL, said he hadn’t understood the importance of finding that out but had called the county auditor controller treasurer tax collecter every week or so to try to find out.

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