San Bernardino city council to debate post-bankruptcy budget

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San Bernardino city leaders meet Wednesday to consider a host of deep cuts to staff and services. It’s the city’s first revised budget proposal since it filed for emergency bankruptcy protection earlier this month.

San Bernardino’s city manager is expected to reveal the details of a proposal to slash staffing and spending by 30 percent. The city’s current interim budget expires in four weeks. Council members will meet in closed session first to work out a draft budget.

“I think they are afraid of the public scrutiny. I think they are terrified of being recalled,” says city hall watchdog Tim Prince.

He’s among those panning San Bernardino city leaders for not revealing details of the proposed cuts sooner. He’s also spearheading a move to recall the entire city council, Mayor Pat Morris and city attorney James Penman.

“The people that have failed to make the hard decisions and have caused damage to the city are now trying to avoid scrutiny and input from the public they harmed,” says Prince.

Officials say they’re staying mum on budget-cutting details because of ongoing litigation with creditors.

“It’s akin to what happened in the city of Vallejo and I am not surprised,” says San Francisco attorney Ron Oliner.

He represents the San Bernardino police officers union in the bankruptcy case. He also represented city workers in Vallejo during its bankruptcy. He says just like San Bernardino, city leaders in Vallejo were reluctant to divulge many budget details. But Oliner says from a creditor’s perspective, it’s not a big deal.

That’s because there’s enough time in court to dispute any of San Bernardino’s claims.

“Ultimately what they bring to the bankruptcy court, by way of a plan of adjustment, everything will be fully disclosed," says Oliner.

The San Bernardino city council likely will adopt the proposed post-bankruptcy budget after what could be a very short public session.

The budget plan then moves to federal bankruptcy court for review. Once it’s approved there, San Bernardino will have an operating budget as it begins to dig its way out of Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

The San Bernardino City Council is scheduled to convene at 4 p.m. Wednesday, followed by closed session at 4:30pm.

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