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By Mike Hazlip—
The Citrus Heights Police Department announced new hires and promotions this month as the City Council approved a reduced budget, causing some to question where the funding is coming from.
Police Chief Ronald Lawrence told The Sentinel in an email Wednesday, the new positions are a result of restructuring within the department and said several positions were left vacant beginning in early November in anticipation of budget cuts.
“At that time, the police department represented 66% of the overall City General Fund budget, so reductions to the police department were inevitable without the City finding alternative funding sources,” he said.
Lawrence said leaving vacant positions open has enabled the department to meet the current budget shortfalls without any layoffs.
Keeping officers on patrol however, has come at the expense of other units within the department. The Youth and Family Services unit has been suspended along with Special Investigations, he said. Those officers are now assigned to patrol duties in an effort to maintain emergency response.
“There were other units that experienced reduced police officers, including some Detectives, as well as Patrol, but by moving personnel from specialty units into the Patrol Unit, we have ensured adequate staffing levels on patrol,” Lawrence said.
The department intends to leave 24 full-time positions vacant, according to Lawrence, 14 of which currently are sworn police officers. The remaining positions include 911 dispatchers, records unit staff, animal services, and community service officers.
Lawrence said the number of vacancies will fluctuate somewhat. The city previously said 26 of 27 full-time positions cut in the recently passed budget would come from the Police Department.
The Sentinel reported last week that the City Council narrowly passed a budget which cut police funding by $3 million, in order to balance the city’s budget and increase reserves over the next two years. The city is also expecting to receive an estimated $15.9 million in federal stimulus money, but it is not yet clear how those funds will be able to be spent.
Several City Council members have expressed optimism that federal stimulus funding will be able to boost the Police Department’s budget to allow more positions to be filled, but other council members have cautioned that one-time funding won’t be able to pay for salaries over multiple years.
The city’s budgetary woes have been a topic of discussion ever since the city incorporated in 1997, but have come to the forefront in recent years as reserves dwindled. A primary factor contributing to the city’s tight budget has been a 25-year “revenue neutrality” agreement with the County of Sacramento which was imposed as a condition of allowing Citrus Heights to become a city.
The agreement has required the city forfeit its share of property taxes to the county, which amounts to around $6 million annually. Over 25 years the city will have missed out on more than $100 million, a significant amount compared to the city’s entire General Fund budget of just under $40 million.
The city will begin receiving its share of property taxes beginning in fiscal year 2022-23, resulting in a projected surplus in the city’s budget of close to $3 million that year, which the city says will go towards increasing reserves to meet cash flow needs.
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