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Bell's finances so bad city could have trouble providing basic services, audit concludes

January 6, 2011 |  7:31 pm

Bell Bell’s precarious financial position could deepen to the point that the city could have difficulty providing even basic services for its residents, an audit released Thursday concluded.

A county review of the city’s strained finances said that if the city continues spending at its current rate, it will end up $2.2 million in the red at the end of the current fiscal year. The audit recommended cutting city services, laying off employees and possibly disbanding its police force.

The audit, which examined city expenses and revenues over the last three years, was requested by the city and sponsored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, whose office picked up the $100,000 cost of the financial analysis.

“The city of Bell does not have enough money,” was the bleak conclusion of the review by the county auditor-controller.

Pedro Carrillo, Bell’s interim chief administrative officer, said Thursday that he plans to present the City Council with a report that will explore ways to balance the budget.

“All options are on the table,” he responded when asked if bankruptcy was a possibility. “We obviously have some very tough decisions and considerations to make.”

The Times reported last month that the county audit would show the city was in serious financial straits and might be forced to make deep cuts to survive. The city has been buffeted by scandal since The Times revealed the enormous salaries of top officials in Bell, one of L.A. County’s poorest cities.

At best, Bell is facing big cuts in city services. It suggested cutting city salaries, benefits, supplies and services, offering only “core services” and contracting for some services. The report also says the city should find ways to increase revenue, such as doing a better job of attracting businesses.

--Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives

Photo of Bell town hall meeting Thursday night by Ruben Vives