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Entrepreneurial spirit alive and well in Folsom

By: Kerry Miller, Folsom City Manager
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Residents of cities across the region and up and down the state now face the reality of less money to fund local government operations. The downturn of our economy and the impact of the state’s budget on local government have inflicted varying degrees of pain on California cities and the residents we serve. Folsom has fared better than many cities for a variety of reasons. We resisted overspending during the good years and maintained a solid reserve fund. We faced challenging budget decisions head-on and took proactive steps to offset an anticipated revenue shortfall without significantly impacting essential services. Our dedicated employees shared the pain by agreeing to furlough days, forgoing salary increases and accepting early retirement packages. Another important reason that Folsom is able to continue providing quality services relates to the entrepreneurial spirit our employees demonstrate. The following two examples illustrate that spirit. Folsom’s Aquatic Center is a popular facility supported by the city’s general fund. Facing the reality of a reduced department budget and significant consumer belt tightening, our Parks and Recreation staff considered many innovative ideas in an effort to increase attendance and revenues this summer. Staff ultimately opted to purchase several giant inflatable pool toys, including a 75-foot-long Climb ‘n Slide and a 20-foot-tall Floating Swing, for a cost of $20,000. The business plan anticipated paying off the purchase cost midway through the second season that the toys were in the pool. The highly publicized giant inflatable toys were an instant hit and residents of all ages willingly paid the $2 fee to enhance their experience at the Aquatic Center. More than 10,000 people, including me, enjoyed the unique toys this summer. I am pleased to say that user fees generated enough income that we have already paid off our original investment. The fees are now helping to offset the cost of operating the Aquatic Center during this difficult year. Another example of entrepreneurial spirit can be found at the Folsom Zoo Sanctuary. After we made the difficult decision to eliminate the educational outreach program, including the junior zookeeper Zoo Ambassador Program, staff and parents devised a way to save it. Parents volunteered to increase their contribution to a level comparable to what they might pay for their child to participate on a sports team. They also proposed fundraising activities to help cover the cost of the part-time zookeeper who supervises the young volunteers. They worked with zoo staff to organize a successful e-waste recycling event, raising funds to augment family fees and to support zoo animals, resulting in a true win-win situation. This period of economic uncertainty is indeed challenging and unsettling. Yet, I believe these examples demonstrate that we are lucky to reside in a community where the entrepreneurial spirit enhances the programs and amenities that contribute to our outstanding quality of life. Folsom City Manager Kerry Miller can be reached at kmiller@folsom.ca.us.