In cutting overall expenditures nearly 25 percent, the city leaves virtually no department untouched—including city hall, which will operate with a skeleton crew. Since 2006, the mayor’s office has gone from ten employees to three, counting the mayor. The city eliminated six positions from its information-technology department, cutting to the point at which “core” functions would be threatened. The city has combined departments, contracted out services, and even closed down its successful Operation Phoenix program, an anti-crime initiative Mayor Pat Morris launched shortly after taking office in 2005. San Bernardino’s community-policing effort will thus lose its two headquarters, which also served as community centers. Three of the city’s four libraries will close, while layoffs will hit 32 parks department employees and one-third of the city’s code-enforcement officers.
These savings, however, won’t be enough to erase the deficit. San Bernardino spends about three-quarters of its budget on public safety—meaning police and firefighters. Very little in the police budget is devoted to non-personnel expenses, so the cuts inevitably affect staffing levels. The new budget leaves the department with 320 employees, down from 379. Most of the reductions were to civilian support staff, not sworn officers. But the police will have a great deal more work, especially now that the department will pick up the slack from laid-off code-enforcement officers. Residents can assume that crime rates will continue to climb, especially given the demise of Operation Phoenix.