Oops! The new Fullerton Community Center opens up tomorrow, but this news alert might put a damper on the festivities. It turns out the state has rejected redevelopment funding for the project even though it’s already been completed, meaning the city’s troubled general fund may be on the hook for an extra $19 million that it does not have.
It looks like a generation of reckless redevelopment spending has led us to a very dark place.
RDA Woes Trigger Fullerton, Calif., Downgrade
Friday, October 5, 2012 | as of 12:53 PM ET
Standard & Poor’s downgraded Fullerton largely based on California’s rejection of its recognized obligation payment schedule for the city’s role as successor agency to its former redevelopment agency.
California cities could elect to become the successor agency to their RDAs after legislation dissolving the agencies went into effect early this year.
S&P lowered the city’s long-term rating to AA-minus from AA and assigned a negative outlook to lease revenue bonds issued by the Fullerton Public Financing Authority.
Standard & Poor’s also lowered its long-term and underlying ratings to AA-minus from AA on Fullerton Redevelopment Agency certificates of participation and the city’s previously issued revenue bonds.
“The negative outlook reflects what we view as the city’s exposure to previously state-rejected redevelopment projects which, if not approved, could affect Fullerton’s credit fundamentals in the future,” analysts said in the report. “In addition, city officials estimate some continued structural imbalance in the general fund, despite some previous budget reductions to offset historical revenue declines.”
A portion of the disputed bond proceeds has not been spent, but $22 million was used to build the city’s community center.
The state rejected that as a valid redevelopment project because the city, as opposed to its redevelopment agency, had signed the contracts with the developer as was the city’s practice pre-dissolution, according to the report.
The city has resubmitted its request to the state Department of Finance, but if it rejected again, the city could be on the hook for $19 million.
However, city officials told analysts that it would use reserve money from the city’s general fund to cover the bond payments.
Analysts credited Fullerton for continuing to budget appropriate amounts in the general fund to fund both its Series 2010A bonds, which were backed by federal subsidies that now may not be available, and on the COPs issued for the RDA.
The 2010A debt was issued as federally taxable recovery zone economic development bonds. The city has budgeted for the full cost of payments on the bonds regardless of whether it receives the federal subsidy.