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State grabs $2.28 million for Ceres' redevelopment
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With the equivalent of a gun held to their heads by the state, Ceres city officials agreed Monday to hand over $2.28 million in redevelopment agency funds.

The state has ordered redevelopment agencies in California to hand over funds as a way of closing a budget deficit with promises that it will be repaid.

The check will not be cut until the city learns the outcome of a lawsuit over the taking of the funds. The California Redevelopment Association is challenging the state action as unconstitutional. The state wants the money by May 10 so the judge in the case has pledged to make a decision by May 4.

The city is taking the $2.28 million from its low- and moderate-income housing fund. It goes into a fund the state has termed SERAF, or Supplemental Education Revenue Augmentation Fund.

The tax revenue grab was part of a $2.05 billion grab made by the state during its budget process last year. The state is taking $1.7 billion this fiscal year and $350 million next budget year. The CRA may be forced to cough up $469,556 next year.

The Ceres Redevelopment Agency has $5 million in tax increment available.

While the council acting as the CRA board agreed to go along with the state grab - seeing no option for refusing - members were unhappy.

"I just can't emphasize enough how frustrated I am with the state of California," said Mayor Anthony Cannella, who is also seeking a state Senate seat. After he discussed how RDA funds are earmarked for such projects as the Costa Fields renovation project, Cannella said the grab is "the equivalent of me taking money from my kids' piggy bank."

Cannella added, "We could really use that money for good things in Ceres."