Compton not headed for bankruptcy, city manager says

A street in Compton.
A street in Compton.
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Compton’s city manager has a message for those who would lump his town in with San Bernardino, Stockton and Mammoth Lakes — all cities that recently sought the protection of bankruptcy court.

Compton, despite some long-standing budget problems and questions over its official audits is not on that path, even though the city treasurer had been quoted recently as saying that might be an option.

The issue plaguing Compton is cash flow — the city doesn’t have enough cash at the right time to pay its bills, said City Manager G. Harold Duffey.

Take Compton’s $17 million dollar annual Sheriff’s contract. It requires monthly payments, but the city gets its biggest chunks of money in January and May, when sales and property taxes roll in.

Duffey says he wants to change that structure so payments are due two or four times a year when the city has more cash on hand. They’re also looking for a line of credit.

What sets Compton apart from those cities in bankruptcy court? It does not have the same load of employee pensions and health care obligations competing for city funds. In Compton, those are covered with a parcel tax the city started collecting in 1947.

"The city has had layoffs in order to reduce it s overall expenditures. So I’m not trying to say that everything’s rosy, but we are in no way so distressed to the point of qualifying for bankruptcy," Duffey said.

Meanwhile, he is working with the Los Angeles County on an audit of the city’s last two fiscal years.