San Bernardino City Council resumes debate Wednesday on 'bankruptcy' budget

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San Bernardino City Hall on May 14, 2008 in San Bernardino, California. The city is facing deep economic problems.

The San Bernardino City Council resumes debate later Wednesday over a bare-bones budget it needs to send to a bankruptcy judge by the end of September.

The new plan would mean dozens of layoffs and drastic cuts to city services. The council tried to reach a budget agreement in a Tuesday meeting that lasted past midnight. The council failed to reach an agreement because of a hang-up over some of the proposed reductions.

The reductions include about 100 layoffs, the shuttering of libraries, a hiring freeze on cops and reduced hours or part-time closures for several city fire stations.

“We are playing Russian roulette with the safety of these residents and I’m not going to do that,” said councilman Chas Kelley.

Kelly is pushing a motion to stop the fire station brown-outs. If not, he says he’ll vote against the budget plan. He said he supports other reductions in the plan, but not cuts to fire services.

The other snag is reaching a budget agreement is trash collection.

Councilwoman Wendy McCammack wants the city to secure a garbage collection contract with a preferred vendor - rather than go through the open bidding process. She said moving fast on a deal means the city could start making money from the city’s recyclable trash that much sooner.

San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris urged the council to act now on the budget plan.

“It’s a lifeline to our future and I think we court disaster, I mean you’ve heard it; we’ve got $46 million unfunded for this year," said Morris. "We got $18 million of unfunded liabilities for last year. We got a mountain to climb that is as steep as Everest and we gotta start climbing that sucker right now.”

And the air up there is getting mighty thin. The city’s finance chiefs estimate San Bernardino sinks another $125,000 into debt each day it fails to act on the proposed austerity plan.

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