San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 06/23/15 – 5:19 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> The bankrupt city with a reputation for lengthy, contentious decision-making unanimously approved a budget for the coming fiscal year after less than three hours of discussion, a smoother procedure than most cities without its financial challenges.

And then there was applause.

“Overall, this looks like a pretty rosy picture,” said Assistant City Manager Nita McKay, who presented a budget that mostly continues the past year’s spending levels. But there are some major caveats.

For one, while San Bernardino’s budget for fiscal year 2015-16, which starts July 1, manages a small surplus — less than 1 percent of the $128 million to be spent in the coming year — that’s only possible because of protections given to the city because it remains in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The proposed changes submitted May 29 in the city’s plan to exit bankruptcy — outsourcing fire and refuse collection, for instance — aren’t included in the budget. Amendments will be made as the year goes on, based on upcoming bankruptcy court decisions, McKay said.

The City Council voted 6-0 Monday night, with Councilman Rikke Van Johnson absent, to approve the budget.

City officials remarked afterward on the contrast between this year’s smooth budget process and last year’s, which included heavy cuts and passed 5-2 on the last day of the fiscal year after multiple long meetings, thanking those who’d prepared it.

City Attorney Gary Saenz extended that thanks and pride to all of the city’s “underpaid, overworked and under appreciated employees” and to the residents.

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