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Mayor 'fearful' for city finances

Starsky cites state’s raiding of city’s funds as his main concern
By: Don Chaddock, Telegraph Managing Editor
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In a recent speech, Folsom Mayor Jeff Starsky said the state of the city is “sound” but he fears for the future of the city due to the state’s budget mess. “I’m glad 2009 is over,” Starsky said. “I’m hoping 2010 is going to be better, but I don’t think it will be for public (agencies).” He said the state’s penchant for raiding local coffers during budget shortfalls has him worried. “I’m actually fearful for what’s going to happen to the city’s finances (for) one reason, the state,” he said. “That system is a mess.” He said the problem comes from the state legislators’ inability to comprehend the needs of businesses. “On the city council, we understand what it means to sign the front of the check, as the governor said when he first took office,” Starsky said. The good news, according to Starsky, is the city’s unemployment rate is very low, compared to other areas. “Folsom’s unemployment rate is 5.7 percent,” he said. “The city has fared very well. In Rancho Cordova it is 14.2 percent and in Roseville it’s 11.9.” He said property tax receipts rose between October 2008 and November 2009 when many other cities saw declines. “The finance department tells us it’s going to hold steady,” he said. “Median home prices in Folsom have fallen the least compared to other cities.” Starsky said while some businesses have closed, many others are opening. “We’ve had some great openings,” he said. “We had the Palladio 16 Cinema open. The Palladio shopping center will be opening in phases. Numonyx opened. Mercy Hospital expanded. We secured Cal-ISO and they are building (their new headquarters).” What does the future hold? “You have two options from a business perspective and that’s cut (expenses) or grow yourself out,” he said. “We need to grow ourselves out (of this) by supporting small businesses.” He said Hampton Inn’s earlier-than-planned opening was due in part to the city. “We gave Hampton Inn a deferral on fees to get them to open earlier,” he said. “We have to ensure that this city continues to grow economically (with businesses). If (businesses) make money, (the city) makes money and we can provide services.” He said that with the Historic Business District revitalization efforts in full swing, their next target for improvement is the Central Business District. “With Palladio opening and the power center on the east side, it has the potential to crush this district,” he said. He said the city’s public safety and amenities are important components. “Folsom is the safest city in the county with the lowest crime rates,” Starsky said. “Public safety is critical.” He said the public trail system is also crucial to Folsom. “Our parks and trail systems … are a critical part of the charm of our city.” Ken Dickson questioned Starsky’s growth plan. “How does the city grow and stabilize?” Dickson asked. “We used to be a city of 10,000 and now we’re 60,000. When does it stop?” Starsky said growth is important. “My goal is to recession-proof this city,” Starsky said. “Major employment is the key. We’re too dependent on sales tax revenue.” He said the city should rely more on property tax revenue from major businesses such as those like Intel.