JURUPA VALLEY (AP) — California's newest city could be broke in a year because the state has taken away nearly half its budget.
Jurupa Valley in Riverside County lost $6.5 million out of a $14.6 million budget when the state Legislature voted last year to take state vehicle license fee money that used to go to new cities.
"Our survival is at stake," Mayor Laura Roughton told the Los Angeles Times. "We have to get the money restored."
The community of about 100,000 people was incorporated in March 2011 in Riverside County, a fast-growing sprawl of suburbs east of Los Angeles.
Many other California cities are struggling in the wake of the 2008 worldwide financial crisis that melted tax revenues. Stockton, Mammoth Lakes and San Bernardino all have declared insolvency.
Unlike those communities, Jurupa Valley isn't saddled with large budget demands for schools, employee pensions, public services and building projects. Every employee is a hired contractor, including the city manager, and county and state agencies handle police and fire services.
What might force Jurupa Valley over the edge is the loss of the state car-tax money, which used to provide financial help until new cities could find their feet.
The Legislature voted to divert that funding to a grant program for local law enforcement that previously was supported by state general funds.
A bill to restore the money to new cities has stalled in the Legislature.
The cut also hurt California's three other newest cities, also in Riverside County. Menifee lost $3.8 million, Eastvale lost $3 million, and Wildomar $2 million.
Wildomar, which contracts with the county for police services, was forced to cut back on its number of officers.
"The only way to make up for that was in public safety," City Manager Frank Oviedo.
Officials from Menifee, Eastvale and Wildomar say their cities will survive, but observers have their doubts.
"I don't know how any new city will be able to make it," said Michael Coleman, a fiscal advisor for the League of California Cities. "Jurupa Valley? I think they have maybe a year, then they'll give up."
"Shoot, we haven't even had a chance to get started," said Don Davies, who helped lead the Jurupa Valley cityhood effort.
California has seen cities vanish before.
The Riverside County desert town of Cabazon disincorporated in 1972, and the tiny Northern California gold rush town of Hornitos in Mariposa County folded in 1973 after 122 years of cityhood.