Rifkin is wrong about RDAs

By From page A8 | October 24, 2013

Rich Rifkin’s column last Wednesday is replete with non-facts, false accusations and demonstrated lack of knowledge.

Yes, the Davis City Council did vote in 2011 to issue $18 million in bonds, fully aware that the California Legislature had been for weeks (it was in all the papers) planning to abolish redevelopment agencies. So the council, acting “as swiftly as possible, worried that an RDA without funds would be forced out of business,” issued the bonds in the face of known legislative action.

The dissolution of California’s RDA program was not sought by California Teachers Association; rather, it was sought by the governor’s Department of Finance and the Legislature in an attempt to balance the state’s budget, not just for the 2011-12 fiscal year, but for the foreseeable future.

Why? Well because when RDAs were formed, as Rifkin reports, the base property tax revenue to all property tax-reliant agencies (schools, county government, special districts) was frozen at the pre-RDA value; the RDA got the increment increase to invest in economic development. As Rifkin reports, the loss of property tax assessed value in Davis for those agencies did drop considerably.

Rifkin doesn’t report that on statewide average, 52 percent of every property tax dollar goes to K-14 public education in California. Since the implementation of the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, the state general fund guarantees K-14 education funding.

So what isn’t reported by Rifkin is that the state general fund picks up the tab for almost $7 million in property tax revenue shortfall directly related to the RDA and tax increment. If the property tax revenue for the Davis school district does not meet the minimum funding level, the state picks up the difference. So the CTA doesn’t worry about property tax revenue, it worries about the general fund’s ability to guarantee minimum funding.

And Rifkin is dead wrong about no other local bodies being “shortchanged.” The state does not guarantee Yolo County or any special district a dime of property tax revenue shortfall.

The teachers’ unions have never been “mad as hell about the backfilling.” In fact, they took care of education funding with Proposition 98. During the recent economic downturn, Davis schools received their guaranteed revenue; Yolo County, the city of Davis and all special districts did not. Ask the Davis city employees who were furloughed.

I don’t doubt that the city manager told the council that “all of the money is going to bond investors at high interest rates.” That’s the choice the council made on Feb. 22, 2011.

If Steve Pinkerton is quoted correctly saying, “the (California Teachers’ Association) won’t let Governor Brown change the law,” he needs to study how laws are made. Gov. Brown did not abolish redevelopment agencies; the California Legislature voted to do so and Brown concurred. And if a Democratic legislator told Rifkin that the teachers were pushing Brown to abolish the RDAs, the legislator, in my opinion, was wrong but most definitely had a responsibility to warn against the action taken by the council.

Don’t blame the teachers and don’t blame the governor for unkept Davis City Council promises, blame the council for a serious miscalculation. Rather than writing misleading, finger-pointing columns, Rifkin’s time would be better spent investigating the facts and talking with the Democratic legislator who confided in 2011 about introducing legislation to address the problem facing our community.

Rifkin’s responsibility is to factually present his argument with which I may or may not agree, but he has a responsibility to the readers of The Davis Enterprise to be factual. The venue to engage in factual debate to address and resolve the issue is the California Legislature.

P.S. I’m not related to Captain Cook and I will not be making a third trip to Hawaii.

— Gregg Cook is a Davis resident.

Special to The Enterprise

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