City of Compton may declare bankruptcy by September: officials

Wed Jul 18, 2012 4:46am EDT

Related Topics

(Reuters) - The City of Compton, a city of 93,000 people located on the outskirts of Los Angeles, must decide by September 1 whether to seek bankruptcy, according to its two most senior financial officials.

Such a move would see it join a growing number of deficit-hobbled California cities that have used the filing to restructure onerous debt loads.

Compton, which has an accumulated $43 million deficit and has depleted what had been a $22 million reserve, will run out of cash to make its payroll on September 1 at its current cash consumption rate, city comptroller Steven Ajobiewe told the city council during a July 17 meeting.

"I have $3 million in the bank and $5 million in warrants due in the next 10 to 12 days," said city treasurer Doug Sanders. "By then, the council will have a decision to make: don't pay the bonds, default on them, or have a serious talk about bankruptcy."

The city council adjourned at 11 pm without discussing a potential bankruptcy filing.

Compton Mayor Eric J. Perrodin also said he brought unspecified charges of "waste, fraud and abuse of public monies" to California officials, and had met with auditors from both the state and Los Angeles County.

He told the city council that at one point in its past the city had overspent legally set limits on certain programs by $17 million but would not elaborate.

Neither the state nor county has started an audit or investigation, city officials said.

A bankruptcy filing would follow one by San Bernardino, which on July 9 became the third California city this year to seek restructuring of its liabilities. Earlier, Stockton and Mammoth Lakes also said they would file.

Compton's problems escalated on July 13 when credit rating agency Standard & Poor's said it may cut Compton's BB long-term and underlying ratings for its lease revenue bonds.

S&P cited a decision by Mayer Hoffman McCann, the city's independent auditors, to resign rather than sign off on Compton's 2011 financial statement.

Mayer Hoffman McCann did not return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

S&P gave the state 90 days to produce certified audited financials, said city controller Ajobiewe, who said the rating agency could withdraw or suspend its ratings on as much as $70 million in city bonds.

Ajobiewe said he had found no other auditing firm willing to step in. City treasurer Sanders said the city had made little progress on a short-term line of credit.

The city council added to Compton's accumulated deficit on July 10 when it adopted a $161 million budget with a $9 million projected deficit.

The red ink grew to $10 million during the council meeting, when city maintenance officials said they needed to make $1 million in immediate repairs to the city's water system to bring them up to code and avoid fines from LA County health officials.

Mayor Perrodin was more optimistic than his financial staff that the city could avoid bankruptcy, although he noted similarities between Compton and San Bernardino, which has a population twice that of his city.

Unemployment is worse in Compton than San Bernardino, he said, although both have seen property taxes fall precipitously due to rising home foreclosures.

Unlike San Bernardino, which has a large unfunded liability to pay its employees' pensions, Compton years ago increased its property tax to fund its workers' pension obligations, said Perrodin, and the retirement program is fully funded.

"Those other cities that went bankrupt all had huge pension liabilities that they couldn't meet," said the mayor. "Even so, we're in pretty dire straits."

(Reporting by Ronald Grover; Editing by Catherine Evans)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
CountryPride wrote:
Once again the media places the blame on the American worker when they fail to account for the real issue why city finances have been sucked dry. Immigration is the #1 problem and when hordes of immigrants come to a city, raid taxpayer funded public services and cause a city to need to increase taxpayer funded services because of the population increase it leads to an unsustainable city policy. But it is California, the land where the Liberals would rather themselves and their families go bankrupt and starve before standing up and stop letting foreigners take advantage of them.

Jul 18, 2012 5:43am EDT  --  Report as abuse
morbas wrote:
Compton’s revenue problems are indicative of municipalities across USA. Across USA municipalities are not allowed income tax sources, only local sales-fees-property. These taxes unfairly burden the lower quintile income group, a trickle up taxation scheme in trickle down employment invariably leads to a debt and credit failure.
The entire deficit issue can be resolved by a Nationalized Fair Taxation, marginalized by the poverty rate with graduation of the income tax rate upwards to 90% (1960 happy days rate) for the highest income quintile. Nationally, the sum of Municipality, State and Federal Budgets is at 57% of the USA collective incomes.

Jul 18, 2012 8:58am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Whittier5 wrote:
Another notch in the 6-gun handle of the Big Banks & Brokerages and the ignorant teawhacks.

That nasty “Regulation” of Glass-Steagall and FDIC, SEC, et al. is rolled-back, and in less than 8 years, the Big Banks & Brokerages Crash the Economy – AGAIN!!

Then, the ignorant teawhacks refuse to create Jobs and only KILL Jobs.

And Cities and Counties, especially California ones, get blamed for not having the Power of the Printing Press???

Sorry, folks. This is the direct and indirect fault of Wall St and Astroturf.

@CountryPride, if you truly have Pride in Country, please learn something correct. Your theory is all wet.
Immigrants are NOT the problem.
Wall St and “the City” (UK) top executives are.

Jul 18, 2012 10:59am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.