The city of Sacramento is facing a $39 million deficit in its general fund for the 2011-12 fiscal year that begins July 1. It’s the fifth straight year of cuts to the general fund, which pays for most city services, including police, fire and parks.

City officials say this year’s budget is the worst they’ve faced. The cuts proposed amount to 10 percent of the city’s discretionary spending.

Budget talks have begun and will intensify in the coming weeks with City Council sessions devoted to the parks, police and fire budgets. With that in mind, here are the answers to some key questions.

How did we get here?

Several factors have conspired against City Hall. First, the two key revenue sources the city relies upon to pay its bills – sales and property taxes – have plummeted to 2005 levels, driven down by the housing slump and broader recession. At the same time, attempts to raise certain fees – including a business operations fee and a “crash tax” – have faltered.

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