Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/24/2012 11:12:13 AM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – The City Council gave itself a little breathing room Tuesday, agreeing to defer about $12 million of payments over the next three months so it can meet its other obligations while it prepares a more comprehensive set of cuts.

The unanimous vote delays some payments, keeps some positions vacant and continues concessions made by several unions, but officials emphasized that Tuesday’s vote was only a stopgap measure to resolve a cash-flow problem that would otherwise prevent the city from paying its employees on Aug. 15.

“We ultimately will have to do a comprehensive restructuring, but this allows us to operate for a few months,” said Interim City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller. “These things we’re deferring will have to be paid.”

The bigger set of cuts, to deal with a $45.8 million structural deficit, is expected to come Aug. 6, when about 30 percent of the budget will have to be cut, said Finance Director Jason Simpson.

That budget – known as a pendency plan – will run the city until the city’s budget until the city works with bankruptcy court to establish a permanent plan.

Simpson calculated the city’s deficit was growing by $125,000 a day.

That means the city must work quickly but carefully, Travis-Miller said.

“Rather than make some knee-jerk cuts, we’re trying to make strategic decisions,” she said.

Employee unions have agreed to continue 10 percent salary reductions that expired at the end of June until new contracts can be negotiated, Travis-Miller said.

The meeting attracted some harsh criticism by members of the public.

Joe Arnett, a former council candidate, said everyone on the council except John Valdivia and Robert Jenkins should be ashamed.

“The employees didn’t do this, the residents didn’t do this,” he said. “It’s all your fault. It’s wasteful government spending that’s run amok decade after decade with no check, and Mr. (Mayor Pat) Morris, you’re at the head of that.”

Longtime developer and resident Warner Hodgdon called for Morris to step down to scattered applause.

Other residents, including Jim Smith of the organization Save Our San Bernardino, called for changes to the city’s governing charter.

Councilman Fred Shorett picked up on that, asking for it to be placed on the November ballot – a vote that must be taken by Aug. 6.

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