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Cox challenger says she manipulated city funds Jon Campbell | Fri, May 14 2010 11:29 AM

, a candidate vying to be the next mayor of Chula Vista, held a press conference on Monday to criticize what he called budget manipulation on the part of incumbent Mayor Cheryl Cox and another mayoral candidate, Councilman Steve Castaneda. Dominguez said recent transfers of money among various city funds amounted to budget trickery, and said the current council was claiming to have a balanced budget when in fact they are hiding gaps.

"This evening, they (the city council) will pilfer the Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund to pay a bill to the tune of $4.1 million, a bill that they've known about for a year. This is not only poor planning, ladies and gentlemen, but another example of misleading behavior of this city council led by Cox and Castaneda," said Dominguez.

The item Dominguez cited on the council's Tuesday agenda approved a payment of $4.1 million from the city's redevelopment agency into a state controlled education fund. Cities are required to make the payment under the provisions of ABX4-26, a bill passed last year by the state legislature. Funds for the payment were borrowed from the city's Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund, as is permitted under state law, and must be paid back by 2015.

Kathy Fairbanks, spokeswoman for the California Redevelopment Association which advises local redevelopment agencies on state related issues, said the City Council was actually being prudent in not making its payment sooner. The bill in question, ABX4-26, is the subject of a legal challenge by the CRA, and that group had previously advised member cities to withhold payment until the legal challenge had played out.

"The California Redevelopment Association did notify its member agencies recommending ... not to actually make the payment because the lawsuit was pending... It just doesn't make sense to make a payment until you know you need to," said Fairbanks.

Castaneda said it was easy for his opponent to "bark" from the outside, but not so easy to actually balance a budget.

"It's really simple for Jorge to make these claims, because unlike the school system or Southwestern, the city doesn't know how much tax revenue is going to come in," said Castaneda.

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