Parkways are more than just a nice paved trail for walking and biking. Our parkways include large open space properties, riparian forests and varied wetland ecosystems, vast oak woodlands, AND our beloved multi-use trail system. Our parkways are vital “green infrastructure” within our community and require maintenance and reinvestment over time similar to traditional civic infrastructure such as streets, sidewalks, utilities, etc. 

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Unlike our city-provided utilities (water, sewer, storm drainage) whose service and long-term maintenance are provided for in our monthly service charges, our green infrastructure, roads and sidewalks, public safety and parks, recreation and library services are primarily paid for through the city’s General Fund (property and sales taxes). While property taxes have consistently grown over time in-line with city growth, our sales tax receipts are not growing at the same consistent rate. In fact, according to the reports to the city council this spring, the reduced sales tax growth is significant enough to cause a structural deficit in the city’s coming budget years…likely beginning with the 2024/2025 fiscal year starting next July. 

This isn’t surprising news. The city manager and chief financial officer have projected this structural deficit for several years and discussed it at the last several budget hearings. To their credit as well as the various city councils over recent years, many operational efficiencies and changes in cost obligations have been made to save public tax dollars. The recession years beginning in 2008 required city management and city councils to make significant and needed changes to balance the budget while maintaining service levels. 

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I was personally involved in this effort as the City of Folsom’s parks and recreation director from 2004 – 2018. During that time, we implemented many operational efficiencies to save money and maintain or increase service levels. Other cost-saving measures included major changes to employee pension and healthcare programs, as well as adjustments to employee pay scales. The fundamental problem is that cost-cutting cannot continue indefinitely without impacts to the service levels we all enjoy. There is a real limit to how much can be cut, and I worry we are at or very near the point where we will see a visible decline in the maintenance and reinvestment in our green infrastructure and other city services. 

At its July 25th meeting, the city council considered an agenda item to form a citizens advisory committee regarding the long-term projections for General Fund revenue and demands for service, the structural budget deficit, and potential revenue solutions. The staff report for this item recommended the Friends of Folsom Parkways be considered for representation on this committee. Several of your board members addressed the city council on this issue and recommended the committee be formed. We understand the upcoming budget problems and would like to contribute to possible solutions. Unfortunately, the city council decided not to form the citizens advisory committee. 

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Now with less than a year before the next budget must be adopted, it doesn’t seem like the city council has a plan to address this problem, nor even a process that could lead to a plan. I worry that next year we are going to see substantial cuts to services we enjoy and appreciate…think recreation and cultural services, parks and parkways maintenance, library services, street sweeping, senior services and potentially even public safety. It hasn’t happened yet, and it isn’t

inevitable. However, to avoid a decline in the elements of our 95630 experience and Distinctive by Nature community that we love, some serious budget work must be done. Your Friends of Folsom Parkways board of directors will continue to monitor this evolving situation and participate whenever it will be constructive. I also encourage you to engage and seek opportunities to understand the various options to resolve the upcoming deficit. Contact your city council representatives to ask questions and express your concern for declining service levels. To a person, your city council members care about the community and the residents they serve, and they need to hear from you to understand your priorities. 

Robert Goss is a community contributor to Folsom Times. He is the current elected President of the Friends of Folsom Parkways and the former Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Folsom from which he retired in 2018.

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Robert Goss
Author: Robert Goss