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The city currently has a $2.6 million deficit and is asking voters to approve a 7.95 percent utility-user tax in November to help alleviate the debt.

Posted Aug. 3, 2014 @ 1:54 pm
Updated Aug 3, 2014 at 2:07 PM

ADELANTO — Adelanto’s recent financial woes, which are pushing city officials toward a bankruptcy filing, have led many residents to question what’s next for the small High Desert city.

While the bankruptcy process would be lengthy and leave the city of 32,226 residents at the mercy of a bankruptcy court judge, local officials have been nearly mute about the possibility of disincorporating — a process that would dissolve the city and hand the community’s local government duties back to San Bernardino County.

Residents are expected to vote on a 7.95 percent utility-user tax in November. If approved, the tax would apply to electricity, gas, communication services, water, sewer and cable in order to alleviate the city’s $2.6 million deficit.

Adelanto Mayor Cari Thomas was asked if she would support the disincorporation process.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “I don’t think anybody in city government is in favor of it, in my opinion. I have no desire to live in a service-county area. I think the amount of services we would receive from the county would be so slim — it would be detrimental to our community.”

If the city were to disincorporate, the county Board of Supervisors would be responsible for “winding up the affairs of the former city,” according to a legal paper entitled, “Municipal Disincorporation in California,” by John H. Knox and Chris Hutchison.

Thomas believes the county is “not really in the business of providing city services.”

“I don’t know if we would ever see them up here,” Thomas said.

Under the Cortese-Knox Local Government Reorganization Act of 1985, a Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, in each county must oversee proposed changes of an organization or city.

Kathleen Rollings-McDonald, executive officer of the LAFCO for San Bernardino County, said Adelanto’s incorporation in 1970 wasn’t without controversy. She said LAFCO staff’s original recommendation opposed it.

“The recommendation of the staff at the time was for the incorporation to be denied,” Rollings-McDonald said, “because they didn’t have enough money to provide the services that a city typically provides.”

The commission in 1970 is believed to have been influenced by local officials, Rollings-McDonald said. The commission ignored the staff recommendation and approved the application. In a public vote on Dec. 15, 1970, residents voted 194-121 in favor of incorporation.

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