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Why was news of Menlo Park's budget surplus withheld?

Original post made by Renee Batti on Jan 18, 2007

The following letter was published in the Almanac's Jan. 17 print edition:

Editor:

I was shocked to read the announcement last week that Menlo Park had a $3.7 million budget surplus for the fiscal year that ended June 2006. All through the election cycle I kept hearing about deficits and the need for a new tax -- the Utility User Tax known as Measure K -- whose passage was promoted by now-Mayor Kelly Fergusson and other members of the City Council.
So, the tax passes (by only 60 votes) and now we find out that there was, in fact, a huge surplus. This looks suspicious. The surplus was for the fiscal year that ended four months before the election but it's not announced until two months after the vote on the utility tax.
On top of this, four council members (the new majority) wouldn't even allow council debate or solicitation of input from the public on setting the new tax rate. Rather, they opted to charge ahead with the full maximum rate allowed, which becomes effective April 1, 2007.
I think there should be some sort of investigation with respect to why the accounting went from a deficit of $900,000 in June 2006 to a surplus of $1.2 million in October to an even bigger surplus of $3.7 million two months after the election.
Were the voters being deliberately manipulated into voting for the tax? If we had a surplus, why should we tax ourselves? Why is the council even implementing the tax? Should the new tax be recalled? Someone needs to explain this.
Mary Gilles
Hermosa Way, Menlo Park

Comments (6)

Posted by bottomline, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 18, 2007 at 1:08 pm

Oh, give it up please, Mary. Your cronies who lost the election lost all credibility with the voters when they trumpeted doom and gloom last year with a projected $3Million dollar deficit (despite a $20million reserve to tap in emergency) , gave away Burgess Pool on a no rent sweetheart deal while the taxpayers still foot the construction bill and bond interest, tried to privatize child care with a half-baked operator to save "administrative costs", convert Bayfront into "duffers doom", "taxpayers sand trap", made countless sweetheart deals with developers. Audrey Seymour played her part as best supporting actress. Then 2 weeks before the election, Mayor Jellins announces a surplus. Too late, no credence with the voters. Incumbents shamed for playing games. Sure, Sacramento has been trumpeting a revenue windfall to the state for many months. The economy is on the uptick! But, what's wrong with setting up a contingency plan with the UUT in case we find the emloyee pension burden sends Menlo operating budget back into the red again. So stop bashing the other side when it's your side that was cooking the books!
No more "twist and shout". Okay?


Posted by Taxing Tales, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 18, 2007 at 3:24 pm

Mary, your old pals on the council voted to put this measure on the ballot, and then Nick fessed up about the surplus a few weeks before the election. So your faux shock seems pretty disingenuous to anyone who has been paying attention (and we know you've been paying attention).

When you insist on keeping all public information under wraps, including data about finances and the budget, sometimes your subterfuge comes back to bite you. That's what happened to your friends, the former council majority vis a vis the deficit/surplus.

Meanwhile, let's just pay our tax and see if this new council can find a way to put it to good use. I'd support an effort to implement some structural changes so we can avoid these kinds of "surprises" in the future.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 18, 2007 at 10:10 pm

It may be great fun to blame everything on the Nicholas/Lee/Mickie majority and to try to continue the fight between "us" and "them" but unfortunately the facts are not on our side.

Kelly Furgesson, our {former} flag bearer and current mayor, led the charge on this tax measure with the support of a "bipartisan" committee.

When Nicholas issued his press release saying there would be a $1.3M surplus, he was ridiculed by many for trying to cover up the deficit that occurred on his watch. Kelly said publicly that there was no surplus, but rather a smaller than expected deficit.

Now I am feeling like I was lied to. The Measure K mailers all said that the city had a recurring $2M deficit, that sales tax revenues were down, and that if we didn't pass this tax we would have to make drastic budget cuts. Now it appears that none of those things were true.

Its time we started asking ALL of our leaders "who knew what when?" and why they weren't more forthright with the voters.


Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 19, 2007 at 1:59 pm

And while we're asking "who knew what when?" let's also look to the future and insist that the City Council hire a new city manager who will demand clear, competent financial data and projections from the staff, and who will present that information to the council -- and the public -- in a straightforward, apolitical fashion. Enough of lies and deception.


Posted by Doubly Disgusted, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 19, 2007 at 3:33 pm

Hear, hear, Disgusted! And while we're at it, let's make sure that the soon-to-be-ex city manager's partner in lies and deception, Ms. Seymour, is shown the door as well!


Posted by Taxing, a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Jan 19, 2007 at 6:08 pm

I would be the last person to absolve Kelly of responsibility for these Keystone Kopsian surplus-or-deficit? shenanigans. The point here is that the original poster is being deliberately disingenous to suggest that her buddies were not complicit in this effort to scam the public and skim more money.


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