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State grabs RDA millions
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The Ceres Redevelopment Agency was forced Monday to turn over $2.28 million of its redevelopment agency funds over to the state following the loss of a statewide lawsuit challenging lawmakers.

On Friday afternoon, the Third District Court of Appeal denied a request for a temporary stay on a $1.7 billion state taking of local redevelopment funds in California.

The stay request was filed by the California Redevelopment Agency, which opposes the state plan to transfer $2.05 billion in local redevelopment funds to help balance California's budget. That money will be sent to local county auditors who will then redistribute the money to fund area school districts in lieu of the state's obligation, freeing state general fund dollars for other purposes.

A CRA lawsuit arguing that the take was illegal failed in Sacramento Superior Court on Tuesday. The CRA will appeal that ruling in full to the Third District Court of Appeal, but had sought the temporary stay to stave off the first payment to the state, which was due Monday.

Last month the Ceres Redevelopment Agency approved the writing of the check to the state but was awaiting to see the outcome of the legal challenge.

The CRA may be forced to cough up $469,556 next year in round two of the grabs.

Redevelopment agency funding, under state law, is intended to revitalize blighted local neighborhoods. Common uses for RDA funding include public works projects, the construction of community buildings, or rehabilitation of deteriorated downtowns or housing tracts.

The CRA argues that state law allows redevelopment funds to be used solely for narrowly specified redevelopment activities within an agency's boundaries. Additionally, the suit argues the raid could impair bond covenants and other contracts, in violation of both the state and federal constitution.

While the City Council acting as the CRA board last month agreed to go along with the state grab, members were unhappy.

"I just can't emphasize enough how frustrated I am with the state of California," said Mayor Anthony Cannella. 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."