California Mayor Asks for Prayers as Bankruptcy Looms

Atwater, California, is going broke under the weight of public employee costs, lost revenue and a stagnant economy, pushing it toward becoming the state’s fourth city to seek bankruptcy protection.

The city of 28,000, situated among Merced County’s dairies and almond groves about 100 miles (about 160 kilometers) southeast of San Francisco, has a $3.3 million deficit that may leave it insolvent before year’s end, according to budget documents.

Atwater’s City Council is set to vote Oct. 3 on a fiscal emergency declaration that would permit it to follow other California cities — Stockton, San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes — into bankruptcy court. Across the state, the recession and the foreclosure crisis have depleted property-tax revenue at the same time municipalities are burdened with rising costs including pensions.

“We are in a tough spot,” Mayor Joan Faul, 71, said by telephone. “All I can say, sir, is keep us in your prayers. We will need it.”

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