ATWATER, CA - Driving into the city of Atwater in Merced County, you immediately see the charms of simple country life.
However, Tuesday's newspaper headlines tell of big city problems.
Atwater City Hall said it may be laying off as many as 25 employees out of a staff of only 90; and possibly declaring a fiscal emergency, which could put Atwater closer to filing bankruptcy.
It's a move Atwater residents don't seem too surprised about, but plenty angry over.
"I hope they can get it straightened out," life-long resident John Beavers said. "It's been coming on for quite a while now and they never could fix it."
How Atwater got into this financial predicament is open for debate. City officials said it has a $3 million general fund deficit combined with the Water and Sanitation Department deficits. Small business owners said if they ran their businesses the way the City Hall does business, they'd be out of business.
"When I hear someone in the accounting department is having trouble finding money, it surprises me that someone working in accounting can't find where the money went," Liberty Tax Services Owner Frank Barragan said.
"The average income is probably less than $40,000 and when I see city and county officials making well, well over that, I have to look at where they're spending money in those areas," TLC Postal Owner Chris Coffelt said.
And, it's the small business owners who worry, they'll be the ones in trouble if Atwater goes bankrupt.
"They're going to start squeezing people," said Barragan, who said he sees it happening to his rental properties in Stockton with new city fees
Atwater city council members were not available for comment this afternoon and News10 was told city administrators were in an off-site meeting all day.
There will be a public meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m. where citizens can find out what comes next for Atwater
"Usually you go broke when you spend more than you make," Coffelt said.