Declaring a financial emergency could speed up plans to officially declare bankruptcy, as authorized by the city council last week. San Bernardino officials said they had no other choice since the city is facing a $45 million budget shortfall. This comes even after the city slashed the workforce by 20 percent over the last four years and negotiated $10 million in annual concessions from employees."I think what this city has come to is shameful and ridiculous, and I think that we really need to come together as a community and start being civically engaged and we all need to take responsibility for what has happened in our city," said resident Corey Lopez at the meeting.
According to city officials, the problems stem from weak property and sales tax revenues combined with escalating pension costs and a loss of state redevelopment funds.
"This didn't just happen overnight. No way possible. We're talking about the city here, the finances, this that and the other," said resident Etienne Carter Sr.
One upset resident even pointed to City Hall Monday morning as a visible example of waste.
"I went here before and every light was on in this building and the air conditioning I'm sure, and I'm just curious to what that cost us this weekend," said resident Tirbor Farkas. "I work very hard for my tax dollars. If the guy managing the city can't turn the lights off or air conditioning off, he's obviously not managing our money."
The city attorney has turned in evidence that some documents were falsified from past budgets. The interim city manager acknowledged there has been some mismanagement of paperwork in the past, but says no serious fraud has been uncovered.
While the city of about 210,000 residents expressed concern last week about the effect of bankruptcy on emergency services, the chiefs of the fire and police departments said they were confident they could handle emergencies despite potential staffing cuts.
San Bernardino will become the second largest city in the nation to ever file for bankruptcy. It will also become the third city in California to file for bankruptcy within the last month.