By Steve Large

CITRUS HEIGHTS (CBS13) – Money trouble is forcing the City of Citrus Heights to make some painful budget cuts.

The city is facing its worst deficit ever, and Thursday, council members will decide whether to pass a plan that would leave 26 police department positions unfilled, including 13 sworn officer positions.

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It would leave the city with an animal services department only on weekends and no more school resource officers.

Mayor Steve Miller says he’s never been forced to make choices like this.

“We’ve never seen cuts like this in our city,” Miller said. “It’s a body punch.”

The city is facing a $4 million shortfall, in a budget that spends two-thirds of its public funds on its police department.

Citrus Heights Police Chief Ron Lawrence says the 26 positions being cut are already empty after many left the department in the past six months anticipating the cutbacks.

The police department will now dedicate all its remaining officers to emergency response.

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“This is going to be our new reality,” Chief Lawrence said. “Yeah we had to eliminate certain specialty units like our youth and families services for example, our special investigations unit. We had to move those positions into patrol.”

The City of Citrus Heights forfeits all property taxes to Sacramento County as part of a deal reached when it first incorporated two decades ago.

Mayor Miller says that agreement, COVID-19, and the deteriorating sales from an empty Sunrise Mall have led to this budget deficit.

“This is where we’re hurting,” Miller said. “We don’t have the diversification that a lot of cities have, we don’t have hotels, with occupancy tax or entertainment tax. All the taxes you can think of we don’t have.”

Plans to remake the Sunrise Mall into a housing and entertainment zone are now in the works.

A city struggling for dollars is now shrinking its police force to make ends meet.

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Mayor Miller says this budget will likely be the “new normal” for the next seven to ten years.