Eastvale voters will decide in a special election Tuesday, March 2, the fate of a measure that would let their city government spend more money.
Measure A, if approved by a majority of votes cast, would raise the the city’s annual spending limit from $25.6 million to $33 million.
It would be a temporary adjustment. The measure would expire in four years.
The Riverside County Registrar of Voters recently sent 29,000 vote-by-mail ballots to voters. Eastvale is home to about 73,000 residents and a total of 36,897 registered voters.
The spending ceiling is called the Gann Limit, which was established by passage of a statewide initiative in 1979. Each city has one. It is allowed to grow each year by a formula tied to inflation and population growth.
“It doesn’t come up very often,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “Very few jurisdictions are up against their Gann spending limits.”
Eastvale officials say their city is in this spot because its limit was set artificially low in 2012 after its incorporation in 2010.
If the ceiling isn’t reset, revenue likely will climb above the limit within a year and the city won’t be able to spend all the tax dollars it receives, City Manager Bryan Jones said.
Advocates for Measure A say it’s needed to ensure Eastvale keeps pace with increasing costs for police protection, park upkeep and other services for a growing city.
What’s not before voters, Jones said, is a sales-tax increase like several neighboring cities placed on ballots in recent years.
“A lot of people are asking, ‘Will Measure A increase the taxes that I pay?’” Jones said. “Absolutely not.”
Measure A, which was placed on the ballot by the Eastvale City Council, is opposed by the local watchdog group Transparent Eastvale.
Sean Parilla, group cofounder, said he objects to the question being brought to voters in a special election.
“It was slipped in after a major general election,” said Parilla, who works as a police officer in Long Beach.
Historically, special elections have much smaller voter turnout than general elections, he said.
“We just want people to get educated on what the Gann Limit is and what it will allow the city to do,” Parilla said, adding, “I hope everyone gets out and votes, but we’ll see.”
Don Pettinger, an organizer of the Yes on Measure A campaign, said he has knocked on the doors of more than 400 Eastvale homes.
Half the people he has talked to didn’t know a local measure was on the ballot, saying, “I thought the election was over,” he said.
Many who did know mistakenly thought the measure involved a tax increase, said Pettinger, who works as superintendent of Grace Christian School in Cypress.
What it does involve, he said, is setting the spending limit at a level he believes is more appropriate.
For most of the young city’s life — Eastvale just celebrated its 10th birthday— the spending limit hasn’t been an issue.
New cities are required to place a spending-limit measure on the ballot in the first election following the first full year of incorporation, an earlier analysis stated. And voters set Eastvale’s cap at $15.5 million in November 2012.
By fiscal 2017-18, the cap had grown to $21.4 million through inflation and population adjustments, while city spending was well below that, at $15.1 million, according to statistics provided by Jones.
Then came the Sacramento deal to restore millions in vehicle license fee revenue that was stripped from the new cities of Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Menifee and Wildomar in 2011 to shore up a state budget shortfall.
That restoration boosted Eastvale’s revenue to $21.1 million in 2018-2019, Jones said. In that fiscal year the spending cap was $23 million — still above available revenue. But the gap was narrower.
And the gap has been closing since then.
The current budget is $24.3 million, $1.3 million below the limit for this year, Jones said.
But in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, revenue is projected to reach $27.2 million and climb above an estimated cap of $26.4 million — meaning Eastvale wouldn’t be able to spend about $800,000.
“This is why we’re bringing it to the voters right now,” Jones said.
For this election, Tuesday, Feb. 23, is the deadline to request a mail ballot, a county news release stated. Voters can complete a request form on the back of the voter information guide or use the form at www.voteinfo.net. Forms may be returned by mail or faxed to 951-486-7272.
Early voting is available at the Registrar’s office, at 2720 Gateway Drive, Riverside, Monday through Friday — except holidays — from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., the release said.
A yes vote on Measure A would let the city spend all its collected funds.
A no vote, Parilla said, could trigger a refund to city taxpayers.
“We would recommend that people look into this and basically decide who they trust more with their money — the city of Eastvale or themselves,” he said.
Jones said what happens to the surplus – should the measure fail — would be a decision for the City Council, which would have the option of budgeting the money for construction projects.
Pettinger hopes the council isn’t faced with that choice. He said the existing cap is outdated, having been established during the city’s infancy and without factoring in vehicle license fee money.
“I think we probably had more cows than we had people then,” he said. “And we definitely had more flies.”