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San Bernardino council makes some spending cuts, delays others

September 5, 2012 |  8:33 pm

PHOTOS: California cities in bankruptcy

In bankruptcy and facing a $45.8-million budget shortfall, the San Bernardino City Council on Wednesday voted to slash spending and eliminate close to 100 city jobs, but postponed action on proposed Fire Department cutbacks that could lead to station closures.

The council also approved a measure to explore outsourcing trash collection to a private company, eliminating the city sanitation department.

The proposed budget plan would eliminate more than 100 jobs, including 41 non-sworn positions in the Police Department and a variety of positions in other departments ranging from managers to janitors. The cutbacks also could lead to the closure of three or four library branches.

PHOTOS: California cities in bankruptcy

But council members balked at a proposal to cut 20 positions from the Fire Department, triggering the likelihood of rolling “brownouts” -- rotating, temporary closures of fire stations.

Councilman John Valdivia, who was strongly supported by the firefighters union in the last election, said those cuts would be “risking lives.” The council will consider cuts to the Fire Department, and their potential impact, separately in two weeks.

The council also decided to exempt city code enforcement officers from layoffs.

The vote came after two days of marathon, often contentious hearings. “Democracy is a messy business,” Councilman Chas A. Kelley said.

The austerity plan would cut close $20 million from the city’s $166.2-million budget, just a portion of the $45.8 million that will need to be cut.

The city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection last month, making it the third California city to do so this summer. Interim City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller told the council it had no choice but to make the cuts as the city winds its way through the federal Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy process, and that deeper cuts must be made soon.

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-- Phil Willon in Riverside

Photo: The San Bernardino City Council voted in July to declare a fiscal emergency and file for bankruptcy protection. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times
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