The city of Hesperia will pay more than $7 million to the state to keep the Hesperia Redevelopment Agency's proverbial doors open.


The city council voted unanimously to pay what officials are calling a ransom at Tuesday's council meeting.


"It's an extortion bill," said Councilman Russ Blewett. "Never have been more cities been united" than they are in their opposition to having to make the payments.


Gov. Jerry Brown proposed shutting down the state's redevelopment agency program -- which provides local funds to improve "blighted" areas -- as a means of balancing the budget. The pushback from cities around the state was loud and immediate.


"Redevelopment's not perfect," Blewett said Tuesday, but "it's done wonderful things in this town."


Hesperia Redevelopment Agency funds have either wholly or partially paid for much of the city's paving over the past decade, the new Hesperia branch library, the new fire station, the new police station, Hesperia Civic Plaza Park, the HO1 storm drain line, the new industrial rail spur and for portions of the Ranchero Road Underpass. The funds also are used to provide financial assistance to local businesses, including tax breaks for locating in Hesperia.


In the end, the legislature's bill shuttering the redevelopment agencies on Oct. 1, Assembly Bill 26, was accompanied by another, Assembly Bill 27, that allowed communities to pay a chunk of revenue, based on its tax revenue, to the state, and then a smaller amount on an ongoing basis.


For Hesperia, that meant paying $7,161,943 this year and then $1,165,163 in future fiscal years.


Hesperia's cash -- as well as those for other local RDAs, including Victorville's -- now go into a fund that will be redistributed to local school districts (and special districts, like the Hesperia Recreation and Park District and Victor Valley College's special district) by the county controller. These aren't new funds, however.


"The state has an obligation to pay" those agencies, "they can't pay it, so they said 'hey, let's just take it off the local redevelopment agency,'" Hesperia Deputy Director Economic development chief Steve Lantsberger said Wednesday. "It's a bitter pill for us to swallow, but we have so many important needs in this community that we can't just let the agency be dissolved."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.