Supervisors seek improvements to county’s business climate

RIVERSIDE – Riverside County supervisors directed Executive Office staff to develop an incentives package aimed at enticing more businesses to set up shop in unincorporated areas of the county, as well as make it profitable for existing ones to stay and expand.

“We need to be more customer and business friendly,” Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, who joined Supervisor Kevin Jeffries in introducing the proposal, said. “My hope here is to look at the different tools that exist … to advance and promote our county.”

Perez and Jeffries received unanimous support from their colleagues in directing the executive office to hammer out a series of prospective reforms and new policies based on a 10-point outline.

Supervisors John Tavaglione and Chuck Washington were initially hesitant to go along, uncertain about the goals their two colleagues had in mind, until Perez and Jeffries emphasized that they were mainly interested in creating a prospective incentives plan that the entire board of supervisors could evaluate before implementing in whole or in part.

“We have a good outline of options,” Jeffries said. “I’m not interested in putting a lot of money into the pockets of industrial developers, but rather money that goes to benefit the infrastructure of the community. We want to make our unincorporated areas more attractive and create more employment for individuals. Anything we can do to increase our revenue over the long run is going to help us deal with challenges ahead.”

Economic Development Agency Director Rob Field and Transportation and Land Management Agency Director Juan Perez, along with other staff, will oversee drafting of the proposed incentives and are expected to report back to the board on their progress in three months.

Jeffries and Perez said simple steps, such as taking advantage of state-sanctioned economic stimulus programs, would go a long way. They referred to the Community Revitalization and Investment Authority program authorized under Assembly Bill 2 in 2015 as an example. The law permits bond sales to pay for rehabilitation of blighted or depressed areas.

The supervisors are also advocating a “Partial Retail Sales Tax Sharing Agreement” policy, under which the county would rebate a portion of sales tax revenue to select businesses, and a “review of current fees for job creators,” spotlighting which ones “could be reduced, frozen or eliminated to stimulate investment, growth and job creation.”

The use of enhanced infrastructure financing districts is also on the supervisors’ to-do list. The districts, authorized under Senate Bill 628 in 2014, permit bond sales to finance the construction of public and private projects, including flood control facilities, highways, sewage treatment plants, bridges, mixed-income housing developments and child care centers.

State law permits IOUs to be amortized through tax increment – property tax gains in specific locations that directly benefited from the projects.

The possibility of implementing a program that would allow some developers to defer payment of impact fees to the county for qualifying projects is another element of the Jeffries-Perez proposal. Development impact fees were slashed in half by the board during the Great Recession to lure builders to the region. The fees are collected to pay for libraries, road projects and other public resources.

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