Atwater Dodges Bankruptcy Bullet For Now

The North Valley city of Atwater is swimming in red ink. Wednesday night the Atwater City Council declared a fiscal emergency.

It's more than four million dollars in the hole{}and the Atwater City council took a verbal beating from the audience during Wednesday night's emergency meeting. Declaring a fiscal emergency gives{}interim city manager Frank Pietro{}more latitude with employee unions. "It just gives me the authority to get into open contracts and try to negotiate a little bit of a salary reduction."

There were more casualties of the budget crisis in Atwater this week. Fourteen city workers got pink slips on Monday. Homero Belmonte is{}an eight-year veteran in the sewer{}department. "Pretty upset because we put a lot of time here. Sometimes we get calls in the middle of the night. We get calls on Christmas."

One former councilwoman Lisa Rasmussen{}says the current council has an obligation to explain how Atwater went from riches to rags. "Will a yes vote allow the council to not disclose how the city went from a multi-million dollar reserve in 2009-2010 to a multi-million dollar deficit in 2012."

Atwater blames the deficit on the recession, the housing market crash, less state funding, and using its cash reserves to complete its wastewater treatment plant.

Three California cities have already filed for bankruptcy: Stockton, San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes.