The budget plan the City Council approved in November doesn't rely on any new revenues for Fiscal Year 2012-13, but it recommends four possible taxes and fees to help the city gather a projected $5.1 million in future years.
At least some of that eventually will be necessary if the city is going to avoid going back into bankruptcy, according to Mayor Pat Morris.
"We need to build a new base for our economy. That's going to take, no doubt, some revenue enhancements," Morris said. "What they will amount to is unknown."
Morris is one of the most forceful advocates for eventual revenue increases on a City Council that's deeply skeptical of the idea, but even he doesn't expect people to be convinced San Bernardino deserves more of citizens' money at this point.
"We have to first of all establish a level of trust in the community that we are good stewards of the public's funds," he said. "We have not done well in that regard. We have not been disciplined, and that has been the long-term problem that I have spoke about during my administration."
First on the agenda, he said, is implementing cuts that were approved by the city but still haven't been made for various reasons.
The California Public Employees' Retirement System is arguing the city shouldn't qualify for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, partly because its budget plan is balanced only by deferring nearly $34million in payments, compared with about $26million in cuts.
That money will be repaid through a $5million-per-year "surplus" built into the budget, known as the pendency plan, said Jim Morris, the mayor's son and chief of staff.
But any future economic downturn or surprise in the next 10 years - which Jim Morris says is almost inevitable - would require additional revenues if the city is to avoid becoming insolvent again.
"We're balanced, but to move forward we need (new revenue)," he said. "Without that, we're balanced on the edge on the cliff. We step backwards one step, and we fall off the cliff."
And the next step in the budget process - a plan of adjustment that must be approved by the bankruptcy judge and most of the city's creditors - might not be approved if revenues aren't included, he added.
Most potential revenue increases would require the City Council to put a proposal on the ballot for residents to vote on.
Four possibilities, which city officials predict would raise about $15 million if they all were passed, are mentioned in the pendency plan but not elaborated on:
Even frequent Morris ally Fred Shorett, who unlike the mayor is a registered Republican, said he opposed any new taxes.
"I'm not one to raise taxes, but I am one to look at letting the voters decide themselves," Shorett said. "If the constituents tell me not to put something on the ballot, I'll listen to that, but I could be convinced that putting it up to the voters might be the right thing to do."
While he sees California overall as overtaxed, Shorett said the economy has so knocked the taxes collected that along with outsourcing some departments the city might need some new revenue.
The city's major revenue sources declined by $11.7million from 2007-08 to 2011-12, the city reported in June.
Reach Ryan via email, find him on Twitter @SBcityNow, or call him at 909-386-3916.