At least that's the plan.
"We're hopeful we can restructure current spending, which is what we've attempted to do (in the pendency plan) and that we can reorganize the debt with manageable payments and still provide essential city services," Councilwoman Wendy McCammack said. "That is the monumental task."
The council approved $26million in cuts and $34million in deferrals in the 12-page document that will be presented to bankruptcy court as a pendency plan, plus guide spending for fiscal years 2012-13 and 2013-14.
And it's a workable part of a plan to get the city back on secure financial footing as it moves through bankruptcy, Mayor Pat Morris said.
"It does temporarily balance the budget assuming the deferrals are granted by the court," Morris said. "It gives us a balance sheet that does work."
The deferrals section of the plan comes in five parts:
Without further cuts, the money for those deferred payments would have to come from future revenue. Possibilities include a real property transfer tax, transient occupancy tax, utility user tax and 911 communications fee - some combination totaling about $5.1 million in new revenue, according to the plan, prepared by Acting City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller, Finance Director Jason Simpson and consultant Michael Busch.
Economic growth or one-time money such as grants could also help pay the deferred payments over time, McCammack said.
Some are more skeptical.
"I think we're deferring and kicking the can down the road, and we're going to pay it back probably with interest and fees and whatnot, so I think it's a disservice to taxpayers," said Councilman John Valdivia, who along with Councilman Chas Kelley voted against the pendency plan.
Valdivia said people ask what else could be cut, but he said the better question is what's essential. The city should start with a budget of 0, then add essential services until it gets to the projected revenues of $120million, he said.
CalPERS - which is the city's largest creditor, owed $143 million - has opposed deferred payments to the pension system.
"We are going to take appropriate action to protect the pension fund," said spokeswoman Amy Norris, who said she couldn't say much more because of CalPERS' ongoing legal battles with the city. "It's so sensitive that there's not much I can say about it."
The city's stance against CalPERS sets up a big fight, said Stuart Drown, executive director of the Little Hoover Commission.
"These things have very broad implications throughout the state," Drown said. "(CalPERS) already built the stream of revenues (from San Bernardino) into their business plan. They can't have too many cities not pay and keep the system going.
"The question is, what kind of choices does the city have? And I don't know."
The city plans to incorporate the pendency plan into a a court filing due Friday in bankruptcy court. Creditors then have until Dec. 14 to respond. The parties are due to appear in court Dec. 21.
Reach Ryan via email, or call him at 909-386-3916.