Arrests won’t end city’s troubles
Bell could be headed to receivership even as refunds of illegal taxes drain its budget.
The arrests of most of Bell’s elected leaders Tuesday brought cheers and dancing in the streets in the small, working-class city, but added to the already deep uncertainty about its future.
With four of Bell’s five City Council members facing corruption charges, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to push for a court order to seize authority from them and turn day-to-day management over to an appointed receiver.
Run for nearly two decades under the tight control of City Administrator Robert Rizzo, who was among those charged Tuesday, Bell now faces a possible recall election and an effort by state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown to try to remove most of the city’s elected officials from office.
In addition, the longterm financial outlook for the city of 39,000 southeast of downtown Los Angeles is murky: The state controller’s office has found that Bell collected about $5.6 million in illegally imposed tax increases and business-license fees — and now must refund an amount equal to more than one-third of its $13.5-million general fund. As city officials work on plans to refund the money, they also must find a way to balance the budget to adjust for the loss of the illegal tax revenue. That could mean cutting jobs or services, or raising revenue through bonds.
The latter option became less viable Tuesday when a Wall Street rating firm cast new doubt on Bell’s ability to pay its existing debts, in-