By Barbara Wood | Special to the Almanac
Atherton City Council members began their review of the town's 2014-15 budget at their May 21 meeting by making it clear there is one project in the budget report they have absolutely no interest in -- a study of outsourcing the town's police services.
While the council didn't vote on a study of outsourcing, they did discuss it as part of preliminary budget considerations. In his budget report, City Manager George Rodericks wrote that while there seems to be strong support of the town's current independent police department, "if the Council were interested in evaluating the possibility of a turn-key alternative service delivery model," such as hiring the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office to do Atherton's policing, the town might hire "an independent 3rd party consultant to evaluate the pros and cons of such a model."
No thanks, council members said. "There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the residents in this town will not support an outsourcing option," said Councilman Rick DeGolia. With the town in good financial shape, "I see absolutely no reason to waste our economic and time resources" on researching outsourcing, he said.
The three other council members agreed.
For the second consecutive year, Atherton has a positive financial outlook, with a small budget surplus. The surplus exists even though City Manager Rodericks has pulled two sources of revenue out of the general fund and wants them available only for capital improvements or paying down long-term liabilities.
One of those resources is the town's $1.8 million parcel tax. In the past, 60 percent of that money has gone into the general fund to support police services; but this year Mr. Rodericks is suggesting that only 20 percent, $350,000, go specifically to pay for police services, to hire two additional officers.
The other pulled resource is state funding from the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF), which Mr. Rodericks says could be reduced or eliminated at any time by state lawmakers. Last year Atherton received nearly $1 million from this fund, and this year has budgeted $700,000.
The budget discussions will continue at a study session on June 4, from 4 to 6 p.m., in the Council Chambers at94 Ashfield Road, in the Town Center.
The budget report can be seen by clicking here.