Escondido, CA

Ron Roberts uses Neighborhood Reinvestment funds for county study of football stadium

The County of San Diego did not use any additional general fund money for its most recent funding to investigate the possibility of a new football stadium for the San Diego Chargers and for college football games.

Each county supervisor has an annual $2 million discretionary Neighborhood Reinvestment Program budget, and Supervisor Ron Roberts utilized $500,000 of his 2015-16 budget to retain expert consultants to advise on stadium financing options and related development, improvement, and financing issues. Although Neighborhood Reinvestment Program recommendations must be ratified by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, that took place with a 5-0 vote August 4.

“What this does is provide our staff with the resources to make sure we have the best quality consultants,” Roberts said.

The Neighborhood Reinvestment Program is intended to provide grants to non-profit organizations for the furtherance of public purposes at the regional and community levels. In addition to non-profit organizations, county supervisors can also fund schools and fire departments, and supervisors can also use money from their budgets to supplement other county funding for specific county projects such as parks, roads, and libraries. Each county supervisor recommends the allocation of his or her Neighborhood Reinvestment Program funds subject to approval by a majority of the board.

Neighborhood Reinvestment Program grants may be given to projects in incorporated cities as well as the unincorporated county. The entirety of Roberts’ Fourth Supervisorial District is in the City of San Diego, whose Community Projects, Programs, and Services grant awards also provide funding to organizations within the city. The full motion approved August 4 by the Board of Supervisors allocates $521,655 of Roberts’ 2015-16 Neighborhood Reinvestment Program funding with Jewish Family Services receiving $12,166 for furniture at its counseling lobbies and children’s waiting area and the Urban Corps being given $9,489 for brush management tools and safety gear.

During Fiscal Year 2014-15 Roberts provided three Neighborhood Reinvestment Program grants of $100,000 or more: $180,000 to transport and install statues at the county’s Waterfront Park, $140,000 to the Mary and Gary West Senior Dental Center for the purchase of equipment, and $100,000 for artifact display at the County Administration Center.

In May 2006 the Board of Supervisors approved an ad hoc subcommittee consisting Roberts and Supervisor Dianne Jacob to act as the board contacts for inquiries into stadium issues. San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer has asked that the county work with the city to evaluate recommendations by the city’s Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group along with other possible ideas relating to a new stadium. The sharing of attorneys and other professional services allows both the city and the county to review and understand the advisory group’s proposed options as well as any other proposed options. On April 7 the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to appropriate $250,000 from the county’s general fund balance to County Counsel for one-time legal expenses and to approve a Memorandum of Understanding between the county and the City of San Diego for joint retention of expert consultants. The $500,000 from Roberts’ budget will allow that consultant work to continue.

“This doesn’t mean we have an agreement,” Roberts said.

“It doesn’t commit the county towards any type of stadium proposal,” Jacob said.

The use of county funds for outside legal or other related experts does not involve development or renovation of a professional sports facility and thus is not subject to the public vote required for development or renovation of any professional sports facility. The supervisors’ December 1997 policy requiring a public election before county resources may be used to support the development or renovation of any professional sports facility does not apply to youth sports facilities funded by the county.

The Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group has recommended that the City of San Diego and the County of San Diego each contribute $121 million for the new stadium, although the Chargers have yet to concur on that plan which also involves contributions from the team. Such a plan would also require approval by a majority of the San Diego City Council and the Board of Supervisors as well as support from a majority of City of San Diego voters and county voters.

The county only collects sales tax and Transient Occupancy Tax from facilities in the unincorporated area, so the county will likely derive more TOT and visitor sales tax revenue by using that money to build youth sports facilities capable of hosting tournaments. Because Rancho Santa Fe is closer to Del Mar than Bonita and Spring Valley are to Mission Valley and Downtown San Diego, it is also possible that the county would receive more revenue if the Chargers left and sports fans patronized the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club fall meet instead of professional football.

“Any county dollars that might be involved in such a proposal must be a good business decision for taxpayers,” Jacob said.

The use of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Program grant will require the Chargers to continue to negotiate with the city and county; the money will be reallocated if no further discussions occur. “Should negotiations not be resumed I don’t see this being spent,” Roberts said.

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