City of Folsom

January 24th event hosted by the Folsom Chamber of Commerce

Good afternoon. Thank you for that warm introduction. I am Mike Kozlowski, and I’m proud to serve as Folsom’s Mayor.

Mike Kozlowski

Welcome distinguished community members and guests. I would like to thank CHOOSEFOLSOM for bringing us together today and for their unwavering commitment to the Folsom business community. To my fellow elected officials, thank you for your service to our city and region.

It is my honor to be included in this event and to be among all of you who, represent the strength and diversity of our city and its business community. Your work as business and community leaders who invest in Folsom because of their unwavering belief in the potential of our city makes my assignment today an easy one.

I am privileged to deliver the State of the City. The State of OUR City. I emphasize “our” because each and every one of us in this room – and in the city of Folsom – has an important role in shaping a thriving community and determining its future.

Our greatest successes have been accomplished when we act in our collective best interests rather than going it alone. It’s why our city garners nationwide recognition as a top community in which to live, work, raise a family, or locate a business.

My wife and I chose to move to Folsom for the same reasons that drive everyone to land here. Great schools, excellent public safety and city services, endless outdoor activities, and a vibrant business community. I was also drawn by Folsom’s rich history. This is where gold mining, railroads, electricity, and water infrastructure were revolutionized. Folsom is a city built on rails, trails, and an entrepreneurial spirit.

In addition to serving as Mayor, I wear quite a few other hats. I’m a husband, father, architect, project manager, and track coach at Vista del Lago High School. Those of you who have coached or had kids in youth sports will recognize some uncanny similarities between leading a city and coaching high school track and field, leading a scout troop, or T-ball or U6 Soccer team.

All demand strategic planning, steering the course of progress, resilience in the face of challenges, and a relentless pursuit of growth and improvement. As an athlete or a coach, you must learn how to pace yourself, know when and how to ask yourself or others for more, and how to overcome obstacles. Both roles Mayor and Coach require a whole lot of patience, delayed gratification and humility. Just like in sports where many athletes from a team contribute to the overall success of the team, every business, every resident, and every individual in this room plays a role in the future of our city.

So lets recap this past season and talk about our game plan for 2024.

Budget

Folsom is a city brimming with opportunity. Our local economy is strong, our business community is thriving, and we continue to see major development and investments in our city.

While there is so much good news to report today, it is important that we acknowledge that the city government is at a Financial Crossroads. Factors beyond our control have permanently slowed revenue growth and increased the rate at which expenses are growing, and our city’s budget today has more costs than it has revenue.

We face a continuing shift of consumer habits. Principally the explosive growth in online shopping and secondly a shift of buying more services than goods. These two trends affect the sales tax dollars received by the city and while sales tax revenue is still increasing from year to year, that growth rate is smaller than it’s ever been.

The result: Sales tax revenue is no longer keeping up with the cost of providing services or maintaining the city’s aging infrastructure. Our city faces a financial shortfall that has the potential to impact public safety, public services, and our quality of life.

Since my first day on the city council, we have seen this day coming and have been taking care with city expenditures. We’ve reduced benefits to new hires. We have taken steps to contain pension costs. And we’ve deferred hiring new staff across all departments. The city has deferred millions in maintenance and capital costs and reduced maintenance contracts in order to make ends meet. We have also continued to look for economy in purchasing and processes and seeking revenue opportunities from city-owned assets.

This financial situation is arguably the biggest challenge facing our city and our community.

People are often surprised to hear Folsom is facing budget problems. They say, “It’s such a beautiful city! I don’t see any problems.” And that’s not a coincidence. We are a city that has been doing more with less, ensuring the community didn’t feel the pinch as we tightened our belts. We acted before things deteriorated and became noticeable to the community. But that is no longer sustainable. We are past the point of making cuts that can go by without immediate notice.

We are now at a point where budget cuts will be increasingly noticeable in our community, and the standards and services the community has come to expect will decrease or decline.

As Mayor and a Councilmember, my foremost goal has always been to “keep our car in the middle of the lane.” Past City Councils set us up for success, but new challenges demand new solutions. Now we must balance the budget at a level that acknowledges higher costs and different responsibilities.

It’s no secret that I am a champion of expanding city services and enhancing revenue to do so. Because I believe we must build on the legacy and vibrancy of this city. And as leaders in our community, it’s our responsibility to leave this city better than we found it.

This year will bring difficult decisions and challenging community conversations about addressing a structural budget deficit. My biggest priority is to fiercely protect our essential services and Folsom’s quality of life. As always, you have our full commitment to transparency and public involvement as we address these challenges together.

Economic Indicators

While sales tax revenue may be growing more slowly, our local economy continues to expand. The Folsom economy hasn’t been immune to the effects of high-interest rates and record inflation, which have posed challenges to its growth, but our local economy remains durable and resilient in the face of those macro-economic impacts.

The median home sales price is down 5 percent from last year, and the average price of a home sold during 2023 was just shy of $740,000. We’ve seen continued growth in our overall assessed property value – which now is about $19.5 billion. There are nearly 39,000 jobs in Folsom, and our job growth remains strong, with an unemployment rate of 3.6% – among the lowest in the region.

Space is at a premium across all sectors of Folsom’s commercial property market. The office sector is at nearly 92 percent occupancy, industrial and flex space is more than 96 percent, and retail space at 97 percent occupancy.

Folsom’s high quality of life is THE key factor that helps us maintain this competitive position. It’s our parks, trails, and open space. Our safe and clean neighborhoods. Our top-notch schools. And our incredible business community. Our city’s high quality of life directly contributes to Folsom’s economic prosperity.

Folsom was established with a vision and a commitment to local control, all aimed at securing a high quality of life. For decades, the city and the community have diligently worked to turn that vision into the reality we know today. We (all of us here today) have a tremendous responsibility to take care of Folsom and to set the stage for the city we want to see next year and decades from now.

Community & Economic Development

Folsom City Departments are implementing the vision we have for that future every day.

Development

Development interest in our city remains high, driven by our optimal location, high-quality amenities, and diverse employment opportunities.

In 2023, our city issued over 860 new single-family home permits, five multifamily apartment projects, and two commercial buildings, including The Shops at Folsom Ranch and Broadstone Villas. We saw an increase in permits for residential apartment projects as well as an increase in commercial tenant improvements, including a new Dave & Busters at the Palladio.

Palladio in Folsom

In 2023, we welcomed almost 2,000 new residents to Folsom Ranch south of Highway 50. The development continues to generate high demand due to visionary planning. We broke ground on the first park and fire station in the plan area, added nine new miles of trails, and Folsom Cordova Unified School District broke ground on its second school, Alder Creek Elementary School. The community celebrated the area’s first restaurant – Capriotti’s – which was followed closely by the opening of the second Folsom Habit burger location and a pizza restaurant The Slice. We just received plans for a new 95,000-square-foot commercial shopping center with the first major grocery store in Folsom Ranch.

We continue to focus on providing diverse housing choices to comply with State law and ensure our city offers a mix of housing options so that people of all ages, incomes, and stages in life have the chance to make or keep Folsom their home. More than 640 new apartment units were constructed last year, a newly updated Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance expands housing options, and our home improvement program helped with 140 home repairs for 76 local seniors so they could continue to age-in-place.

We are updating our zoning code and focusing on mixed-use and higher-density residential development in key areas of the city. We’re also exploring development opportunities on city-owned surplus land to support economic development and tourism.

Healthcare

Along with all the residential and commercial development, our city is becoming a healthcare hub. New medical facilities provide expanded quality healthcare to Folsom residents, bring high-quality jobs to our community, and strengthen our local economy.

UC Davis Health is making rapid progress on the construction of their new Folsom Medical Office Building. It’s the first of several projects planned for the 34-acre site at Highway 50 and East Bidwell, all part of what will be called the Folsom Center for Health. Plans call for an outpatient medical office building and, in the future, a micro-hospital, an ambulatory surgery center, and a hotel.

Grading and construction are underway on Dignity Health’s new state-of-the-art medical complex on a 27-acre site at the northeast corner of East Bidwell Street and Alder Creek Parkway. The project includes an acute care hospital with 300 beds, a ground-level heliport facility, and two medical office buildings.

Kaiser Permanente continues its expansion with plans submitted for a four-story state-of-the-art medical office building next to its existing ambulatory surgical center on Palladio Parkway.

In addition, we have another announcement in the healthcare space. Sutter Health will soon begin construction on a new state-of-the-art 106,000-square-foot Ambulatory facility located at the intersection of Iron Point Road and Bidwell. This facility, set to open in 2026, is designed to cater to a wide range of medical needs, bringing together cutting-edge technology and a comprehensive array of medical specialties all under one roof. Facility highlights include a cancer center, ambulatory surgical center, medical office space, urgent care, and more.

Long-Range Planning

While we focus on our needs for today, we continue our long-range focus on shaping our city’s future. We recently adopted a five-year strategic plan, and two planning efforts are underway to set the foundation for a prosperous and vibrant future.

Our great city is fortunate to be home to the American River and Lake Natoma. As identified in our General Plan, the River District Master Plan initiative is underway to activate Folsom’s waterfront to boost recreation opportunities and economic development while preserving our environmental and historical resources. Community participation is the key to the success of this initiative, and we ask for your input as we imagine the future of our treasured waterfront together. We have a survey on our website, and I encourage you to weigh in today!

We have recently made the first steps to take a fresh look at the opportunities in and the needs of the city’s Central Business District. The goal being to encourage new investment in the area along East Bidwell and Riley Streets between Sutter Middle School and Blue Ravine Road. Hand-in-hand with our community, we will set a vision and implement strategic improvements that can help supercharge this important area of Folsom that has provided unique, important and essential services for decades, has lots of new residents and is bursting with opportunity.

Economic Development

The new year ushers in a refreshed focus on supporting economic development. The City Council recognizes that a thriving economy is the backbone of a vibrant city and is crucial for the prosperity and well-being of our city, our residents, and our businesses. We have strategically allocated resources to focus on a three-year economic development action plan. By prioritizing economic development, we ensure sustainable growth and a brighter future for Folsom.

To drive tourism, Choose Folsom is studying viable destination amenities for the city, such as recreation and entertainment venues, boutique hotels, and conference space. They are harnessing the power of technology, including smart city software to measure economic opportunities and a new app, RideWithGPS, that customizes and plans your bike ride in real time.

Choose Folsom also invested in many upgrades to the Historic Folsom Depot, including brand new exterior paint, and they selected the owners of Sociology Coffee to operate a General Store on the ground floor.

At the end of my address, I’ll share some exciting news about a major company with a household name establishing its presence in Folsom.

Innovation

We continue to plan for the city’s future by investing in sustainable infrastructure and fostering innovation to ensure resilience and prosperity.

This year will see SiFi Networks deliver its first fast and reliable gigabit-speed fiber-optic broadband-internet connectivity to homes and businesses in Folsom. Over several years that network will expand to every resident and business.

We look forward to joining Folsom Lake College as they open the doors of a new state-of-the-art science building, housing biology and chemistry labs and a 4,000-square-foot science center. It’s the ideal training ground for Folsom’s next generation pursuing STEM careers.

When it comes to supporting innovation, look no further than Choose Folsom’s Granite School, which supports startup companies and entrepreneurs. Located in Folsom’s century-old, historic, original school building, the Granite School is an innovation hub and incubator for businesses in technology, healthcare, and beyond. A place where startup companies at the beginning of their journey can connect with other entrepreneurs and benefit from Folsom’s connected and supportive business community. Choose Folsom remains laser-focused on its goal of servicing at least 30 companies and creating 200 new jobs over the next 3 years.

Public Safety

Public safety remains the top priority of the Council.

This is reflected in this year’s budget, which allocated 51 percent of our sales and property tax revenue directly to police, fire, and medical services.

In just the last year alone, the Folsom Fire Department responded to 9,500+ incidents, showcasing the commitment and efficiency of our firefighting personnel.

Last year, we proudly broke ground on Fire Station 34, the first fire station south of Highway 50. I am thrilled to announce that the station is set to open its doors in August, providing expanded services and protection for our residents in Folsom Ranch and beyond.

The Fire Department is committed to succession planning and professional growth. Two Fire Captains and four Fire Engineers have been recently promoted, and we are proud to welcome 19 new recruits from Fire Academy 23-1. This year will bring a new initiative – the Fire Cadet Explorer Program, which will train and recruit the next generation of fire personnel, ensuring a continuous cycle of excellence and readiness within our fire department.

Folsom’s men and women in blue responded to more than 44,000 calls for service in 2023 -6,000 more calls than in 2022.

Recognizing the importance of staying fully staffed, we sent seven recruits to the police academy in 2023, contributing to a low vacancy rate in the police department- a stark contrast to the challenges many law enforcement agencies face in California.

Nineteen individuals within the department were proudly promoted to key leadership and supervisorial roles. Notably, Lieutenants Brian Lockhart and Andrew Bates ascended to the rank of Police Commander, jointly becoming the second-in-command of our agency.

Our Community Crime Suppression Unit is undergoing a transformation, not just in name but in its approach. The unit will now be known as the Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) team, reflecting our commitment to addressing community problems beyond crime suppression. This includes focusing on issues like homelessness and combating the high number of thefts in our local businesses.

With over 150 additional accidents reported in 2023 compared to the previous year, the Traffic Unit will be conducting additional saturation patrols and checkpoints to curb drunk driving and improve road safety, thanks to a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Our Neighborhood Services Division found a new home at 11 Natoma Street, with 2800 square feet of office space which will house our School Resource Officers, Problem-Oriented Policing team, Traffic Unit, and Animal Control Unit.

The department acquired its first electric vehicles – which will soon be patrolling the streets of Folsom, symbolizing our commitment to a greener and more modernized police force.

This year, we are investing in upgrades to our training room, ensuring the department remains a top-tier facility for law enforcement training and attracting the best of the best professionals.

Transparency is crucial to building trust, and to that end, we have expanded the Police Department’s public information team, strengthening the lines of communication between the police department and the community we serve.

Our police and fire departments are not just essential services; they actively engage in community events, from parades and pancake breakfasts to open houses and school gatherings. They’re dedicated to educating our youth on vital issues like drunk driving and the dangers of fentanyl. And they spread joy by collecting toys for families in need for the holidays and reading to school children on Read Across America Day. This level of involvement is what sets our community apart. It is, and always has been, the Folsom way.

Parks and Recreation

You may not remember a time before our well-connected trail system, parks, library, aquatic center, sports complex, or senior and art center. But in the big picture of our city, these all took place relatively recently, made possible thanks to decades of careful planning.

As our tagline says, we are a city distinctive by nature. We are fortunate to be home to 48 beautiful parks, more than 50 miles of trails, and nearly 1,200 acres of dedicated open space.

Our amenities remain a source of great pride, and that’s why our ability to maintain our parks and facilities is so important. These amenities are enjoyed by us locally, but also support tourism and economic development – bringing in more than 200,000 participants annually for tournaments, swim meets, and special events.

Last October marked a major milestone as we celebrated the Folsom City Zoo Sanctuary’s 60th Anniversary. The zoo welcomes 145,000 residents and visitors each year while providing a safe haven for rescued wild and domestic animals. This year, we installed a new perimeter fence around the zoo, enhancing the safety and beauty of the zoo, and we have revamped the animal outreach program, providing up-close guest encounters with select animals.

Folsom Zoo Sign

Last year, we broke ground and hosted a community celebration at Prospector Park, the first park in the Folsom Plan Area. Opening this fall, this neighborhood park will offer a play area, soccer fields, a ball field, sports courts, a dog park, and dueling zip lines.

And today, I hereby announce a challenge Joe Gagliardi to a zipline race at the grand opening event!

Progress continues in planning Benevento Family Park next to Vista del Lago High School, and the park is slated to open in 2025. This park will reflect the community’s priorities and will include a children’s play area, sand volleyball courts, and a hillside play space.

This year, we’ll begin construction on a new project at Livermore Community Park, bringing new trails and a much-needed expansion of the parking lot.

The Johnny Cash Trail will see its first public art installation this year. Just as Cash’s career started with a single guitar pick, the two main trailheads on the Johnny Cash Trail will begin with a pick. This summer, that first 7-foot tall bronze guitar pick will be installed on the Johnny Cash Trail entrance in Historic Folsom.

And thanks to some hard work and help from our California Assemblymember Josh Hoover, we have received over $425,000 in state funding to use for casting and placing of the second 7-foot tall bronze guitar pick at the opposite end of the Johnny Cash Trail. Thank you Josh!

Staff also worked tirelessly to secure essential grant funding, which will allow the city to complete the Folsom-Placerville Rail Trail – the first and only planned Class 1 trail connection from the Willow Creek Trail corridor near Oak Avenue to Folsom Ranch south of Highway 50.

Library

Our parks, trails, and facilities are more than amenities. They are cornerstones of Folsom’s vibrant and connected community, as is the Folsom Public Library.

The Folsom Public Library is a hub for knowledge and community in our city – welcoming over 175,000 visitors and checking out more than a half-million items in last year alone. More than your traditional library, it connects visitors with resources and community.

The library has recently refreshed its carpeting, expanded its bookstore, modernized public computers, abolished late fines, and in the coming year the library will expand its collection of books in languages spoken by our community members.

Last year, children’s story-time was attended by 20,000 young readers. The library-based Summer Reading, chess club, STEM program, and Pokémon Parties enriched children’s lives all year long. Local teen volunteers have invested roughly 1,000 hours participating in social activities and game nights at the library.

Beyond books, our library also connects to resources like free transit passes or State Park passes. The library also is place to connect to tax and Medicare assistance for seniors.

Public Works

Hey, why don’t we check in on roads and sewers?

Providing an effective transportation network is not only a quality-of-life amenity but also an economic driver.

Last year, we completed the first phase of a traffic safety project on Folsom Lake Crossing, adding median barriers and new paving. And we secured federal funding for the second phase of the project.

We completed design work on a project that will improve traffic flow at the Iron Point Road and East Bidwell Street intersection by adding a third left turn lane from westbound Iron Point on to southbound East Bidwell, easing access to Highway 50. Work is set to begin this Spring.

And we wrapped up the Scott Road Extension project, improving travel between Highway 50 and Rancho Murieta, as well as access to the Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area.

Upgrades continue on our intelligent traffic management system to manage the flow of traffic. And we adopted a roundabout-first policy to begin replacing traffic signals with roundabouts – a safer, more efficient form of traffic measures.

Our Public Works Department is making progress on its green energy goals – not only because it’s required by state law but because it’s the right thing to do. We are preparing to convert 50 percent of the City’s fleet to zero-emission vehicles by 2035, and we are expanding our organics and food waste recycling program.

We continue design and environmental work on the Empire Ranch Road Interchange and continue to seek critical funding for the project, and construction could start as early as 2025. More than a set of roads and ramps, the interchange will bring progress, improved traffic flow, and economic growth.

Water

Clean and reliable water is our community’s lifeblood, ensuring our residents’ well-being and supporting economic development. Last year, we invested $14.4 million in water and wastewater infrastructure, a behind-the-scenes yet critical investment in maintaining the clean, reliable water that Folsom is known for.

Water and economic development have a significant connection, as clean and reliable water can be a key factor in attracting businesses, such as Gekkeikan’s state-of-the-art sake brewing facility and Kikkoman’s soy sauce manufacturing plant.

Speaking of which, I want to recognize Kikkoman on its 25th anniversary in Folsom. We deeply appreciate their continued investments in Folsom, including their recent significant donations to the City. The donation provides for new state-of-the-art upgrades at the water quality testing facility and a mobile camera trailer to combat theft in hotpots in the City.

As we address today’s water needs, we must proactively plan for the future. That is why we are launching The Water Vision Project, a long-range water supply planning effort to guide the management of our water resources over the next 50 years. Acknowledging the potential for future climate-related challenges, we will be working with the Folsom community to identify a diverse water supply portfolio.

Community That Cares

In Folsom, our success can be entirely attributed to our strong community. It’s the key ingredient to our secret sauce.

From our schools to our sports fields to businesses and beyond, our community spirit is unrivaled. On each and every day, you can find volunteers:

· Serving their fellow community members, schools, neighborhoods, and city.
· Donating time helping our Zoo Sanctuary and library, planting trees, cleaning up parks, coaching youth sports, refereeing youth sports and supporting our public safety agencies.
· Ministering to and supporting people in their worst seasons and protect those who are most vulnerable.
· Serving on city boards and commissions.
· Providing leadership and continuing the mission of service organizations.
· Supporting public safety by joining the Community Emergency Response Team, Citizens Assisting Public Safety (CAPS), and Sierra Law Enforcement Chaplaincy.

This spirit of community and volunteerism is evident in every corner of our city on Community Service Day, where thousands of volunteers tackle service projects throughout Folsom each year and when nearly 60,000 pounds of food are collected to benefit the Twin Lakes Food Bank.

Our community, working together, is a powerful force. And that strength is evident in everything we do.

Closing Comments

I have outlined just a fraction of our work and our progress in making our future, looking ahead we must continue to visualize the Folsom where we want to live and do business in 2025, 2035 and 2050. The type of city we want for today and the type of city we want to leave our grandchildren.

We all want a city that is safe and secure. A city whose parks are clean, and with streets that are smooth. A city that has recreational opportunities everywhere. That has diverse connected resident communities.

And a city where business opportunity are many

We have work to do. We have investments to make. We must protect what we have and build on our success. Every time we’ve needed to, Folsom has proven that we are up for any challenge.We are, and always have been, a community that has the courage to forge our own path, dream big, and work hard for the greater good.With this legacy of strong leadership and community support, I am confident that Folsom’s future is as bright as ever, and that the best Folsom is right out in front of us. …so… if I can switch to Coach K for a moment… let’s get back to work.

That, my friends, is the State of the City-our city. Together, we’ll invest, improve, take care of, and make our future. Thank you!

Samsung Announcement

… but there is one more thing.
We’re excited to announce that Samsung Semiconductor is opening a brand new office, right here in Folsom. This strategic move strengthens Folsom’s position as a city of choice for businesses and allows the city to harness local talent, fueling innovation in the semiconductor industry.

The facility contains an R&D hub like no other, featuring an Advanced Compute Lab and an Advanced Controller Development team. The brilliant minds at Samsung are at the forefront of driving memory innovations for cloud and data center environments and mobile and automotive solutions, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

Housing approximately 50 dedicated employees, the Folsom office is just the beginning. Samsung Semiconductor has ambitious plans to expand and grow, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of innovation. As a world-leading semiconductor company powering the devices you use every day, from smartphones to electric vehicles, hyperscale data centers, IoT devices, and beyond, we are excited about the endless possibilities that lie ahead.

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Welcome to the brighter side!