California city could cease to exist over budget woes

JURUPA VALLEY — California's youngest city evokes memories of the old West: residents ride horses against a backdrop of hardscrabble hills, and political wrangling takes place in a store that once sold cowboy boots.

There is fear that the city itself could soon become a thing of the past after state lawmakers — in what residents blame as a classic government blunder — shifted funds away from communities.

"Our tax dollars were supposed to be here," said Councilwoman Laura Roughton. "It's so frustrating that $18 million was supposed to have stayed here so that we could build a city and it was taken."

The community of 97,000 people at a major freeway crossroads could be the first in California to disband in 40 years if council members vote to start the process Thursday.

Just three years ago a group of unincorporated areas 45 miles east of Los Angeles became a city, where warehouses are used as a major distribution point for retailers and suburban subdivisions have sprung up alongside older equestrian neighborhoods.

In some ways, it was doomed from the start by legislative budget shuffling to shore up a statewide prison overhaul.

In the nine communities that are now Jurupa Valley, many wanted a stronger voice to preserve the area's semi-rural lifestyle, where residents keep animals, trailers and barns in their backyards and hay and feed are sold on the main thoroughfare along with fast food and pizza.

But just days before Jurupa Valley was incorporated, state lawmakers in Sacramento diverted revenues from motor vehicle license fees away from cities. The move affected municipalities across the board but especially the state's four newest municipalities in suburban Riverside County, which relied more on the cash than older cities that received other sources of revenue.

While several other cities struggling since the recession have filed for bankruptcy, disincorporation is a dire measure that isn't a likely solution for cities saddled with debt or other cash-flow troubles.

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