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By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 02/16/14, 5:45 PM PST |

ADELANTO >> A $2.6 million budget deficit and lack of tax revenue could push this High Desert city into bankruptcy by the end of the year unless residents approve a utility users tax, Mayor Cari Thomas said.

The city declared a fiscal emergency last June, when the deficit was at $2.5 million, and retail development has remained flat since then. The city’s $4.5 million in sales tax revenue is a little more than half of what it costs to pay for police and fire services — $7 million.

If Adelanto residents do not approve a proposed utility user’s tax of between 5.9 percent and 7.9 percent, the city will likely have no choice but to begin Chapter 9 bankruptcy proceedings by year’s end, Thomas said.

“We feel we have exercised as many options as we could find and are still coming up short,” Thomas said.

A proposed ballot measure for the utility users tax will go before the City Council later this month or early March for consideration. If the council approves the item, it will go on the June primary ballot. If it does not pass, the city will take another shot in the November general election, Thomas said.

“If it doesn’t pass in November, at this point, we don’t see any other options. We’d probably start the (bankruptcy) proceedings,” Thomas said. While a Family Dollar and a Dollar General are coming to town, the tax revenue they are expected to generate won’t even come close to filling the $2.6 million budget gap, Thomas said.

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