San Bernardino teetering on edge of bankruptcy

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During a public meeting Tuesday evening, the city of San Bernardino will consider another round of deep budget cuts as it teeters on the brink of bankruptcy. The city is $45 million in the hole — despite laying off nearly a quarter of its workers in the last four years and slashing city services.

In a budget report, San Bernardino’s city manager urged the council to adopt an aggressive cost-cutting plan to avoid insolvency “if at all possible."

The council will discuss the municipal bankruptcy process at tonight’s hearing. It’ll also consider a host of spending cuts to avert that possibility.

That includes “restructuring” San Bernardino’s police and fire departments — that could result in shutting down one or more fire stations. It could also ask city workers to pay more into their retirement.

Even though the city has won about $10 million in concessions from unions in recent years, officials partly blame the budget crisis on rising pension and salary costs.

“We are looking at unsustainable compensation packages that were negotiated in better times by our unions, and those need to be repackaged entirely," said Mayor Pat Morris.

Morris also points to a continued decline of tax revenue and a $30 million loss in state redevelopment money.

“Cities like our own, historic cities we have aging infrastructure, we desperately need to rebuild ourselves, reduce blight and create jobs. That’s what redevelopment did. It created public-private partnerships that brought people like Kohl’s, like Amazon to us,” Morris said.

Some council members say Morris is to blame for some of the fiscal mess. They point to what they consider his ill-timed projects, including a new rapid transit bus line between Cal State San Bernardino and Loma Linda.

Tuesday evening's special hearing on the budget in San Bernardino starts at 5 p.m.

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