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City Scene: City proposes ‘sustainable’ budget

By: Kerry Miller, Folsom City Manager
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Developing a structurally sound, sustainable and balanced budget is always a challenge, but never more so than during this lingering economic downturn. The proposed Fiscal Year 2010-11 Operating Budget, now under consideration by the City Council, reflects and responds to today’s economic pressures. Folsom is better positioned than many California cities. However, declining general fund revenues and rising expenses require sacrifice and careful re-evaluation of priorities. Our proposed budget continues the proactive process we began last year to ensure long-term sustainability for our city. Once again, we utilized a modified zero-based budgeting approach to determine the appropriate level of programs we can realistically provide given current budget constraints. Our focus was on preserving as many high-priority programs and services as possible in order to safeguard our highly valued quality of life. There were no sacred cows as we examined all programs. Every department contributed to the proposed solution. While public safety continues to be a top priority, the need to develop a balanced budget requires budget reductions in police and fire. Still, it should be noted that our proposed budget allocates 47.7 percent of general fund appropriations to police and fire services, a slightly higher percentage than the 45.9 percent allocated in our current fiscal-year budget. The new budget proposal also includes significant structural reorganizations of the Public Works, Utilities, Community Development, Redevelopment and Housing, Finance, Administrative Services and Economic Development departments. In addition, we propose consolidating functional activities such as engineering and maintenance for improved efficiency. We also propose staff position reductions at all levels of our organization. This is a necessary and responsible step toward right-sizing our workforce and building a sustainable future. These reductions, which would impact every department, were determined after a careful program review with city priorities and service needs in mind. I would like to point out that significant concessions made by bargaining groups in prior years, including furloughs and deferrals of salary increases, will continue to support the city’s financial goals in the coming fiscal year. As directed by the City Council, the proposed budget maintains reserves at 9.8 percent of budgeted expenditures, or $6.5 million. Ideally, we will rebuild our reserve fund to 15 percent as the economy rebounds in the coming years. I believe our proposed budget responds appropriately to the new economic realities that Folsom and all other cities face today. We remain committed to prudent fiscal planning while providing excellent services for our community. The City Council will continue accepting public comments during the second budget workshop and public hearing on May 11, prior to budget adoption. The proposed budget is posted on the city website at folsom.ca.us. We welcome your comments. Kerry Miller is the city manager of Folsom. He may be reached at kmiller@folsom.ca.us.