State lawmakers billed the end of redevelopment as a boon for schools, but it took nearly a year for Glendale Unified to start reaping the benefits.
At a time when public education institutions are contemplating teacher layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, the potential for an influx of cash had put many local officials in a state of cautious expectation.
“Don’t count on anything until you truly receive it,” said Eva Lueck, chief business and financial officer for the Glendale Unified School District, who likened the redevelopment situation to “smoke and mirrors.”
The smoke lifted in January, when Glendale Unified, Glendale Community College and the Los Angeles County Office of Education received about $1.5 million collectively as a result of Glendale’s former redevelopment agency winding down, according to county records.
Still, Ron Nakasone, executive vice president of administrative services at Glendale Community College, said the $377,000 payment the campus received was less than expected.
The payments come about a year after Gov. Jerry Brown shut down nearly 400 local redevelopment agencies throughout the state to close a multibillion-dollar state budget gap.
When he first began advertising his plan in 2011, Brown said ending redevelopment — which allowed Glendale to use incrementally higher property taxes to help develop projects like the Americana at Brand, Disney’s Creative Campus and affordable housing — would fill in school funding gaps.
But the end to redevelopment hasn’t come swiftly. The issue was tied up in the California Supreme Court for several months, and the city and the state Department of Finance have had a number of spats over funding issues.
Only after Glendale covers former redevelopment-related obligations to bond holders, banks, contractors and consultants every six months is extra money sent to education and other local agencies.
“What’s been going on with Glendale is they’ve been claiming they don’t have money [to cover their obligations],” said Arlene Barrera, tax division chief of the Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller.
Glendale city officials, on the other hand, say they’re fighting over every dollar for the betterment of the community. Such projects as the Museum of Neon Art, a Central Library revamp and railroad crossing improvements are tied up in the city’s enforceable obligations.
Although it took about a year before there was anything left to be distributed to education agencies, Barrera said there’s no way to predict the amount schools will get next time around.
“It’s definitely unclear,” she said.
Despite the frustration shared among city and school officials, Department of Finance officials said the post-redevelopment distribution process is working as it should, even if in some cases, redevelopment obligations have crowded out payments to other stakeholders.
“Over time, these residual payments should increase,” said state Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer.
The schools are slated to get their next round of payments in July, and Glendale Unified plans to use its latest sum of roughly $631,000 for Measure S construction projects and to pay for bonds the district issued for its solar projects, Lueck said.
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