Desert Hot Springs, Calif. - Desert Hot Springs City Council declared a fiscal emergency for the city Tuesday night. The vote was unanimous, 5-0.
The city's financial director says 25 percent of the budget needs to be cut before the end of June. That's $4.8 million dollars in cuts.
Declaring a fiscal emergency allows the city to open up its contracts and re-negotiate its financial obligations. Council voted to authorize staff to begin doing that immediately.
Interim City Manager Bob Adams said expenditures in Desert Hot Springs have exceeded revenues for several years.
"There was an Urban Futures Report 18 months ago - and revised six months ago -that told us we were headed for a problem unless we could start making some adjustments," Adams said.
With the city on pace to run out of money in April or May, council voted unanimously to declare a fiscal emergency. Not everyone was ready to forgive past budgeting mistakes and move on.
"Council has asked the city to forgive for things time and time again," said long-time resident, Emily Schmidt during public comments. "And this city has been gracious and forgiving. People make mistakes. We are all human. If this does not go right, I don't know if the city can forgive this."
Residents made it clear there is one city service they do not want to see a reduction in.
"We do not sanction the cutting of police force," Margo Clark said. "There is absolutely no reason that should cross your mind. Start by cutting the perks."
While no one recommended dropping police to contract with the sheriff's department, reworking public safety workers contracts and pay structures was suggested by Mayor Elect Adam Sanchez.
"We are all in this together," Sanchez said. "The solution lies within all of us. Especially it lies within the police department. They have to now come up to the table and help save themselves as a public service agency."
Incoming council member Joe McKee implored city leaders to work together to take long overdue action to save Desert Hot Springs from financial ruin.
"We need everyone in this city involved in this process right now to make sure we survive as a city," Mckee said. "I do not wish to be on the city council that dissolves the city of Desert Hot Springs."