Construction workers continue building the city ofBanning’s new police station. Downtown is getting more than a facelift. Many parts of it are practically being rebuilt. So it may be surprising to find out from Banning’s mayor just how much this city is in financial trouble.
“Over the next 18 months, a $5 million shortfall,” said Banning Mayor Bob Botts.
City leaders find it challenging to explain why there’s so many construction projects going on at the same time it cuts city staff, prepares to scale back the number of firefighters and considers putting a utility tax hike to a vote.
Mayor Botts explained, “At home, they buy food and that’s an operating budget. But they borrow money to buy a house, that’s a capitol expenditure. We simply try to have them understand and it’s difficult.”
Carol’s Kitchen is a food bank that serves hundreds of Banning’s poor at the city’s community center.
“It makes a big difference. I don’t go hungry. It makes a hell of a difference,” commented unemployed resident Mark Burley.
In these tough times, city staff even came up with the idea to charge the non-profit food bank $14,000 rent to use city facilities.
When asked how his life would be different if Carol’s Kitchen was not around, unemployed former security guard Chuck Crance said, “Well, I’ve been on unemployment. It’s barely enough to make my bills. But this is a blessing because this give you a good, hot meal. I’m single. I don’t cook. You always know it’s here. People rely on this program. If this program didn’t exist, it would really be a burden on the county and the state.”
The city may be strapped for cash, but it’s backing off the idea charging the food bank rent.
“I echo Councilwoman Hanna’s position. We ought not to be charging them. They are doing wonderful work,” said Mayor Botts.