COMPTON, Calif.–Compton’s finances are in a shambles.
They’re in such disarray that the city amassed $369,000 in late fees over the last year because it could not pay its policing contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on time, the Los Angeles Times reported today.
The city has already laid off about 15 percent of its workforce, and city leaders warn that more cuts may be on the way. City Hall has slashed spending, even canceling the city’s popular gospel concert.
But most disconcerting is the city’s looming deficit of $39 million, a sum that represents about 80 percent of its annual general fund budget, according to The Times.
Standard & Poor this summer lowered the rating of some of Compton’s bonds to just above junk status. City officials said they’re hoping for a short-term loan or line of credit to get through the year and vowed not to file for bankruptcy.
As city leaders work to turn the city’s finances around, many residents are questioning how things got so bad so fast, according to The Times.
Just a few years ago, the national media were writing about the renaissance of Compton, where new businesses including Target and Home Depot were moving in and crime rates were dropping. But those boom times quickly went bust.
Compton’s new city manager, Lamont Ewell, said in remarks reported by The Times that years of poor decisions coupled with the economic downturn drained $22 million in surplus reserves and left the city with crushing debts.
While cities in California have been hit hard by the recession, Compton is in a small class of cities that have ended up in critical condition. The cuts come at a bad time, with unemployment in the working-class community already at 20 percent.