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Bankrupt San Bernardino cuts $26 million, tries to stay afloat

PHOTOS: California cities in bankruptcy

Saying it had little choice, the San Bernardino City Council voted to cut $26 million in spending in an effort to keep the bankrupt city from dissolving and being governed by the county.

The city is already in bankruptcy proceedings and facing a $45.8-million budget shortfall. The $26 million in cuts will help the troubled city stay afloat.

The austerity plan is a required step in the federal bankruptcy process. It freezes vacancies in the Police Department even as the city deals with an increase in violent crime. The Fire Department’s overtime budget also was slashed by 35%.

PHOTOS: California cities in bankruptcy

The city already had stopped making payments to CalPERS, the state's public employee pension fund, since filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection Aug. 1, a move city officials estimate will save San Bernardino more than $12 million.

“This is a document that I’m holding my nose and voting yes on,’’ said Councilwoman Wendy McCammack.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of the plan, which both Mayor Patrick Morris and City Atty. James Penman said was a mandatory step in the city’s effort to restructure its debts and repair its finances under federal bankruptcy protection.

“We have a mountain to climb here,’’ Morris said during Monday’s meeting at City Hall.

At Monday’s hearing, Councilman Chas Kelley blasted the budget-cutting plan for being shortsighted and not addressing San Bernardino’s long-term financial health, which he said depends on attracting business and expanding the middle class.

"This budget is a financial equivalent of using leeches to bleed a sick patient," Kelley said.  "There is no vision in this budget for our city’s economic renewal."

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-- Phil Willon

Photo: A view of West 3rd Street from San Bernardino City Hall. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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