Citrus Heights Sentinel Logo

Guest Opinion: Time to face reality of city’s financial problems in Citrus Heights

By David Warren–
As the current COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact societal interactions, the Citrus Heights City Council gives the appearance of being the ostrich with its head in the ground, hoping that it will go away, instead of acting to minimize the damage to municipal services.

David Warren

A cursory examination of the council’s agenda for April 23 confirms that the City Council has not begun a public examination of what to do with what can only be described as a devastating reduction of income due to the pandemic quarantine.

There is no current documentation available to the author of the expected reduction of sales tax revenue, gas tax revenue, building permit revenue, etc. However, it is not rocket science to assume that the fall in revenue will be dramatic.  

The City of Sacramento, the Sacramento City School Board, and others, are reporting warnings of the need to reduce spending because of expected revenue reductions.  The State of California is reporting an expectation that revenues will be well below that projected in the Governor’s original proposed budget for 2020-2021.

Citrus Heights operates on a minimum municipal staff already.  There is very little redundancy in municipal positions.  Wherefore, difficult choices will need to be made very shortly, both as to staffing and for municipal repairs.  

The worst fears of those who objected to the purchase of the City Hall for cash, which wiped out the municipal cash reserve, are now being realized.  The cash cushion, which could have supported municipal services for what is likely to be an extended period of diminished tax revenue, is gone.

Guest Opinion: city shouldn’t live on a credit card to be paid by future residents

The City Council exacerbated the problem by borrowing to cover the cost of the purchase of the Sylvan Corners property.  Citizens objected prior to the city approving the loan and purchase, citizens objected due to the risk of an economic downturn.  

Now that the recession has arrived and projected to continue for months to come, the Sylvan corners property will likely become the proverbial Albatross around the city’s neck as opportunities for sale of the property at or above the purchase price become problematic.

From 2018: Citrus Heights City Council approves first-ever $12M line of credit

As a consequence of the two purchases, the city faces fixed expenses for debt reduction which cannot be adjusted during this time of financial difficulty, a special risk due to the fact that revenue from Dignity Health is used to pay the mortgage for the City Hall, at a time when there are journalistic reports of hospitals facing financial difficulties associated with the reduction of elective procedures which are the principal source of hospital revenue.

Now, at the very instance when the city needs its municipal employees the most, the city may well be in its worst position to pay their salaries, let alone provide them with sufficient PPE.  As the quarantine-in-place requirement could be extended, it portends more demand for police services.

And although the day-to-day demands for building inspections and other municipal activities may have diminished, there is really not a single employee in the building department or general services that perform a duplicate service.

Instead of city staff and City Council discussing plans for the Sunrise Mall and the Sylvan Corners property, the agenda should be addressing plans for how the city will deal with the pandemic and its extended consequences.

While other cities and counties are creating plans for housing the homeless using federal and state funds to reduce the risk of contact contamination among individuals, the City Council refuses to make any plan to remove what visually appears to be an increase in the number of homeless at the city’s shopping areas, parks and streets.  

Also, the City Council should be, at the very least, creating a citizen’s committee to establish priorities for municipal savings to carry the city through for at least the next year.

By way of example, a good start for municipal savings would be requiring the city manager and police chief to agree to a 20% reduction in their pay, as a contribution to saving the jobs of other municipal employees.  

Other best-case sources for municipal savings should best be left to a citizen’s committee, whose members would not be selected from the “usual individuals” and instead from a broad spectrum of members of the community.  Time is of the essence, and there is no time to waste.

David Warren is a Citrus Heights resident and legislative advocate at the State Capitol with Taxpayers for Public Safety. He can be reached at

Want to share your own thoughts on this topic or another local issue? Submit a letter to the editor or opinion column for publication: Click here

Like local news? Sign up for The Sentinel’s free email edition and get two emails a week with all local news and no spam, ever. (Click here)