Two days before Jurupa Valley became an official city in 2011, the state decided that money normally given to new cities should be spent on law enforcement instead.
The city has since shaved every possible expense. It leases the showroom floor of a western wear shop for meetings, owns no property, has no police or fire departments and is run by a skeleton staff of contractors.
Jurupa Valley is located just west of Riverside and has 94,000 residents. The city is operating on $17 million a year after the state cut about $7 million.
Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, has tried unsuccessfully to fix things with legislation. He warned any area thinking of incorporation to think twice. "Help is simply not available at this point," he told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/IoO7ze) in a story Sunday.
Officials believe the city can sustain itself for two more years at the most, about the amount of time it would take for the city to dissolve.
"It solidifies the reality we only have so much time and so much money," said Laura Roughton, the city's first mayor and now a councilwoman.
The state distributes money to its cities based on property taxes, but new cities get much less than older cities. To compensate, newer cities were given a share of vehicle registration fees. But the state took that money away in a financial realignment to boost funding for law enforcement.
"We don't want an extra handout; we only want to be equal with every other city," Mayor Verne Lauritzen said.
Three other Riverside County cities that have incorporated since 2004 are in the same situation—Wildomar, Menifee and Eastvale.
But problems in those cities aren't as dire as Jurupa Valley.
Disincorporation could start this month, even though some still think Sacramento might come to the rescue.
"We can last for one more shot with the state," Lauritzen said. "I think Jurupa Valley can be a city. It can govern itself, make its own decisions and determine its own destiny."
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com