CONCORD -- City leaders will face grim choices -- including curtailing police services, closing a community center or cutting recreation programs to slash $4 million from the budget -- if a temporary sales tax expires.

Since the recession, Concord has eliminated services, reduced its workforce and cut employee benefits. The City Council used funds from Measure Q, an additional half-cent sales tax, to protect a few sacred cows -- most notably police officers.

The council must decide soon whether to ask voters in November to extend the tax, or let it expire in March 2016. Without the extension, everything will be on the table.

"We have already stripped many of our programs to the bone and there are no easy cuts out there," City Manager Valerie Barone said during a recent budget workshop.

If the council decides to ask voters to extend the tax, they must pass a resolution placing the measure on the November ballot by Aug. 8. Council members may direct staff to draft ballot language at the June 24 meeting, when they are scheduled to adopt the fiscal year 2014 budget.

While the staffing levels of other city departments have taken a hit since 2007, the police force has lost just seven full-time sworn positions. But without the tax extension, public safety and quality of life in Concord will decline, Barone said.

The city would protect patrols and 911 emergency response, but other police department functions such as code enforcement and special assignments could be reduced or eliminated. Additional potential budget cuts include reducing infrastructure maintenance, scaling back economic development initiatives and further trimming city staff.

"We need to keep our city viable and cutting services really should not be an option," Councilman Ron Leone said. "Our city deserves more than that; we deserve more than that."

The council, he added, should ask voters to extend Measure Q.

"I don't want to see what Concord will look like in 10 years without it."

In a February survey of 504 residents, 77 percent of respondents supported continuing Measure Q tax to provide funds for essential city services.

But Concord's pursuit of an extension could run into trouble if a countywide sales tax increase also appears on the November ballot. The Contra Costa County board of supervisors this week agreed to survey residents to gauge support for a quarter-cent or half-cent sales tax hike to fund a range of possible services including Doctors Medical Center, public safety and emergency services.

Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister urged Mayor Tim Grayson and Barone to meet soon with Supervisor Karen Mitchoff to discuss the issue.

The city's proposed fiscal year 2014 budget projects total revenues of $85 million -- including about $29 million in regular sales tax, $11.6 million in Measure Q sales tax money and $20 million from property tax. Expenditures are projected to be $81.4 million, up $2.3 million from the current fiscal year.

The proposed budget uses $8 million of the Measure Q tax dollars for operations and puts the remaining $3.6 million in reserves. According to the 10-year financial forecast, the city will need to identify $4 million in ongoing cuts and use $16 million in reserves to balance budgets over that period. But that doesn't include millions more needed for roadway and street sign improvements, building maintenance and retiree medical benefits.

Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.