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City sings summertime budget blues

By: Jim Ratajczak The Telegraph
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The start of the 2008-2009 fiscal year is less than two months away, but city officials are already feeling that scorching July heat. At this point, however, nobody is sure just who will be getting burned. With the nation mired in an economic slump, Folsom is looking for a way to create a 10-percent reduction of expenditure from the 2007-2008 fiscal year budget, which could mean some city employees losing their jobs. That reduction is expected to come from the city’s primary operating fund, the general fund, which, according to city documents, “accounts for all financial resources of the city.” “The city has a legal requirement to prepare and adopt a balanced budget,” said City Manager Kerry Miller. “And based on the latest financial reports and revenue projections, it looks like sales tax and property tax revenues are 10 percent less than what they were a year ago.” In the 2007-2008 fiscal year, the general fund budget was approximately $60 million, more than one third of the city’s total budget of nearly $210 million. As it stands, the city needs to cut approximately $6 million from that fund before the start of the new fiscal year. But money just doesn’t magically appear out of thin air – it’s got to come from somewhere. “It’s certainly going to be difficult,” said Evert Palmer, assistant city manager. According to Miller, the services that depend on the general fund include the city’s police and fire departments as well as parks and recreations. “Almost 75 percent of our general fund budget is for salaries,” he said. Neither Miller nor Palmer would speculate about which positions, if any, would be axed, but city officials acknowledged layoffs are a possibility. “We are definitely looking at that (possibility),” said Miller. “We will have to address some positions across the board. But at this point, I really couldn’t tell you.” “That’s definitely one of the options,” said Mayor Eric King, echoing Miller’s sentiments. Miller has been meeting with city agencies to keep them in the loop, but the agencies themselves are responsible for determining just how to reach that 10-percent expenditure reduction. It won’t be until May 27, when the preliminary budget recommendation is prepared and submitted, that city officials will be able to gauge their next plan of attack before the final budget needs to be approved in mid-June. So while the sun continues to shine, everyone remains in the dark. “It’s important for us as council members not to interfere with the city manager or this process,” said Council member Andy Morin. Whatever does happen, though, officials remain committed to preserving the quality of life in Folsom. “Our objective is to maintain the quality of life citizens have come to expect,” said Palmer. “It’s hard to say what will be noticeable right now.” “The city is sound,” said King. “What we’re seeing is a decrease in revenue. But we’ll be able to tighten the belt and nobody will know anything happened.” At least, that’s the idea.