Almanac

News - June 23, 2010

Portola Valley, Woodside pay $216,000 each for second patrol by deputy sheriff

by Dave Boyce

The cost to the town of Portola Valley of sharing with Woodside a second daytime patrol by a deputy sheriff — about $216,000 per town per year — is perplexing to one volunteer on Portola Valley's Finance Committee, and now the Town Council and town manager are curious about it, too.

"It just seems exorbitantly expensive. It's hard to understand this kind of expense," volunteer William Urban told the council at a 2010-11 budget review on June 9. (Mr. Urban is a co-principal with the Bay Area wealth management firm Bingham, Osborn & Scarborough, LLC.)

The net cost this year per town for the second patrol from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office is about $116,000; an annual state grant covers the other $100,000, town managers from both towns have said.

Portola Valley is entering its second year of a three-year public safety contract, and paying a total of $764,000 for 2010-11, an increase of 10 percent over last year's $697,000, according to the budget. The contract includes another 10 percent raise for 2011-12.

"The (extra patrol) numbers do raise a question," Mayor Steve Toben said. "We need to give it a hard look."

Portola Valley's balanced general fund budget is $3.8 million, with a reserve of about $2.6 million. The council will likely hold a public hearing and vote on the budget at its June 23 meeting.

Revenues include $591,000 from Stanford University, part of a $2.8 million outlay from Stanford for redoing the roadside trail that runs for 1.2 miles along Alpine Road from the Ladera Oaks Swim and Tennis Club to Arastradero Road.

The trail work is part of an agreement Stanford has with Santa Clara County to offset the environmental impact of about 5 million square feet of planned new construction on campus.

Significant expenses for Portola Valley's next 12 months include $700,000 from dedicated reserves to resurface streets, $70,000 from the Open Space Fund to start improvements at the Spring Down open space, $170,000 to start a five-phase program to replace and repair the town's storm drains, and $40,000 to improve lighting at Town Center.

"Modest" salary increases are coming to employees who have been there for a couple of years with no raises, Town Manager Angela Howard said.

Town revenues are expected to rise a bit. The council in December — citing the high quality of the soccer and baseball fields, steadily increasing irrigation costs, and unusually low fees to begin with — increased user fees. The budget shows a projected $5,000 in revenues, a 150 percent rise from the $2,000 in 2009-10.

Projected building permit revenues are up 22 percent. "Building activity has been very robust in the last couple of months," Ms. Howard told the Finance Committee. "That looks pretty good right now, but I don't know how long that will last."

The budget predicts flat property tax revenues, unlike expected decreases elsewhere in the county. "Property values are much more stable" in Portola Valley, Ms. Howard remarked.

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