California’s State Senate passed a bill last week to return the vehicle license fee (VLF) revenue to four of Riverside County’s newest cities including Menifee and Wildomar. Jurupa Valley and Eastvale were the other two communities that saw funds diverted.
In 2011, the state stripped $14 million in VLF fees that were earmarked specifically for the four fledgling communities.
“The money from these fees was supposed to be secure,” said Wildomar Mayor Marcia Swanson.
Wildomar, which incorporated in 2008, lost 25 percent of its general fund revenue or close to $1.8 million, while Menifee lost $3.9 million.
“We are hopeful the governor will sign this bill. It passed both houses, the state is healthier,” said Wildomar City Manager Gary Nordquist.
“All the stars seem to be aligned.” said Swanson.
The legislation, now awaiting the Governor’s signature, was sponsored by Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside.
“There isn’t anyone who is against this bill,” said Menifee Mayor Scott Mann. “Two years ago when the governor vetoed the bill I don’t think he realized how important the VLFs were to the new cities.”
Swanson said the money could have been used for public safety services.
“We have the VLF fees for three years,” said Swanson. “We spent 45 percent of our $8 million budget on emergency services.”
Nordquist said since the city lost the $1.8 million, police response time to secondary calls had been slowed.
The city of Menifee lost almost 15 percent of its operating budget when close to $4 million in VLF fees were stripped from it.
Mann said city council will have to decide on what and where to spend the money if VLF revenue is returned to the city.
“I would like to spend the money on growing our emergency services and hire more city staff,” said Mann.
The governor has until September 30 to sign the bill, which passed unanimously.