Bell could start running out of cash in May as deficit grows
As Bell City Council members repeatedly fail to show up for meetings, the city has been unable to vote on key cost-saving measures that would help reduce a growing deficit and avoid potential bankruptcy.
The city, which has cash reserves of only $300,000, could have difficulty paying its bills as early as May, city officials said.
With the council in a state of political paralysis -- two members facing criminal charges have repeatedly called in sick and once walked out of a meeting -- the city's interim administrator, Pedro Carrillo, said he may be forced to make deep budget cuts to preserve cash.
Carrillo has the authority to make cuts if the council is unable to meet. He needs to reduce expenses enough to keep the city operating until March elections, when a new council will be chosen.
"I can't scream any louder," Carrillo said. "You all have to make some tough choices and get moving. The city attorney and I have an emergency plan to deal with our shortcomings if the council does not take action."
The city faces a potential deficit of $3.5 million to $4.5 million -- almost double what county auditors recently determined -- and has already defaulted on a $35-million bond.
-- Jeff Gottlieb
Photo: Bell interim City Manager Pedro Carrillo on Sept. 21, 2010. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times