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How much should nonresidents pay for recreation in Menlo Park?

Original post made on Mar 26, 2014

How much should people who don't live in the city pay to participate in Menlo Park's recreation programs? Tonight the Parks and Recreation Commission will discuss whether a 35 percent surcharge for nonresidents is appropriate.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:49 AM

Comments (28)

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Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 26, 2014 at 9:57 am

Priority for City of MP residents and surcharges for all-non residents sounds more than fair. $380,000 in non-resident revenues does sound like a lot of money - what's the program breakdown or specifics of those surcharges.


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Posted by Agree
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 26, 2014 at 12:24 pm

I think 35% is way out of reach and beyond even market pricing for many of your offerings. It is definitely a deterrent for our family. We live in North Fair Oaks and the City never gets our business for recreation. We attend classes in neighboring cities because it is less expensive as well as utilizing private business.

I am sure all of their programs are not full. Dropping the NR fee would encourage increased registration as well as make Menlo Park more attractive for folks in neighboring communities to come and spend their dollars here; maybe they will grab food downtown afterward, shop at Trader Joes or even get a parking ticket ;-). Looking at the other City models listed in this article, why is Menlo so inflated?

I also sympathize with the unincorporated folks that have children who attend the Menlo Park School district. The 35% up-charge is a major deterrent for folks who would love to send kids to summer camp or sports activities with their friends, but are being pushed out by price.

It's not always about fees. It's also about community building and accessibility. It's sad that families who live nearby Burgess cannot all afford to attend programs. Give residents first dibs on registration, maybe only charge NR fees for building rentals, or just lower the rate, etc... but find away to make programs more accessible. An increase in participation would also translate into increased revenue.


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Posted by Walter
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 26, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Now is the time to annex the unincorporated area into the city. OH SAVE MENLO NOW!


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Posted by 35% too much
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 26, 2014 at 4:52 pm

35% surcharge sounds exorbitant, and possibly discriminatory. 10-15% if you need some cost recovery to offset the taxes not collected.

And don't menlo residents take classes in other communities too?


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Posted by HP PARK
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 26, 2014 at 5:48 pm

What does Holbrook Palmer charge (residents vs non)?


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Posted by Agree
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 26, 2014 at 8:06 pm

@HP Park - i just checked the HP website. Many of their activities are contracted out. The non-resident fees come into play in their Tennis Program because I believe there is a neighborhood association involved as well. It looks like non-residents pay 15% more than residents on the administrative fee for a facility rental. It's not really comparable.

The Menlo issue is based more on classes/camps, as I understand it.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 26, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Interesting. My first reaction was why charge at all for 'out of town' folks. I've long thought that model to be petty and pointless.

However, the issue of unincorporated area residents (vs residents of neighboring jurisdictions) is interesting. Where neighbor jurisdictions could be seen as an exchange program, I am less thrilled with the 'free rider' problem of residents of unincorporated areas. If you aren't paying any city taxes, perhaps it IS fair to charge a premium.

But, 35% is punitive. Let's be reasonable.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2014 at 1:15 am

What's the point of commenting here if you don't make your views known to your city council or speak at the relevant meeting?


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Posted by West Menlo Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 27, 2014 at 10:09 am

@ Hmmm - Could you please clarify your comment about the "free rider problem" with residents of unincorporated areas?

We live in West Menlo Park (unincorporated SM County) and we pay the non-resident fees and also miss out on some classes because they are full before registration opens up to all non-residents. There is no free ride for us.

In terms of cost, it's not a primary driver for us, but if we can pay less for Portola Valley, Palo Alto, etc. classes that are or are not run by those cities, we're happy to do it. In some cases the programs are closer to our home anyway.

That said, I understand why there is a difference in cost given that our taxes go to the county. It would be great to have the chance to register at the same time as residents -- even at a higher cost -- (or at least before those without a MP zip code since those in unincorporated areas are in a "no man's land" of registration priority in any city.


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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 27, 2014 at 1:39 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

resident should have priority in registration for courses. A higher fee to non-residents should be charged, but 35% seems a little steep. If you can get courses cheaper else where, by all means, run like hell and sign up.


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Posted by M. Davis
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 27, 2014 at 1:40 pm

It is outrageous to consider unincorporated Menlo Park residents as "out of towners." Their children attend Menlo Park schools. Out of Towners live in Atherton, Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Carlos, etc. Unincorporated Menlo Park residents should be charged the exact same rate as every other Menlo Park resident.


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Posted by Don't do this…..
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2014 at 2:21 pm

We live on Stanford Campus and because campus feeds to PAUSD, those registered at PAUSD maintain their "resident" status for Palo Alto Rec.

The only problem is when a child is pulled from public school for a school like Charles Armstrong -then it's feels punitive to that child - there should be waivers for such situations -- but Palo Alto loves to be mean to Stanford faculty kids because they can't get anywhere being mean to Stanford, the corporation. It makes them feel like they have power to be cruel to a child with dyslexia. I can't imagine Menlo Park doing that.

So, if you're considering doing this by school boundary, I think you will want to think through how to handle kids in private school - I suggest deciding to go by address and not matriculation.





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Posted by Don't do this...
a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2014 at 2:23 pm

P.S. - while the cost is punitive to families who have kids with extra needs - the real issue in Palo Alto is that the classes and camps fill quickly, so if you can't sign up until all the "residents" have, then your child is completely locked out of their neighborhood friendship group. It's awful. Please don't do that.


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Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Mar 28, 2014 at 3:41 pm

> It is outrageous to consider unincorporated Menlo Park
> residents as "out of towners." Their children attend
> Menlo Park schools.

Irrelevant. School districts do not necessarily follow city/town boundaries.


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Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 28, 2014 at 11:51 pm

M. Davis - they pay more because they don't pay City of Menlo Park taxes. Now if they want to become part of the City of MP they can vote and do that. But no one in their right mind would vote to become part of City of MP just for cheaper rec use fees - they'd also have to want to put up with our inept city government.


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Posted by i cry foul
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 29, 2014 at 6:08 am

> they pay more because they don't pay City of Menlo Park taxes.

This is total and utter bullpucky, it's almost exactly opposite of what you think. The only reason your city is not bankrupt is because property owners in unincorporated San Mateo County tolerate subsidizing your city's existence!

You think it's all simple: you think incorporated and unincorporated residents pay the same fixed share of their 1% property tax rate to the city or county. But that's not the case!!

Prior to Prop 13, unincorporated San Mateo County property owners payed about 1.3% of their full market property value to their various taxing agencies. But incorporated cities averaged a combined tax rate equivalent of 2.67% of full value!

Cities were faced with a fiscal crisis, and the state passed SB154 to deal with the funding quandary. Their solution was to take the newly mandated 1% property tax rate maximum and apply it county wide apportioning based upon the relative amounts PREVIOUSLY received PRIOR to Prop 13 passage! So even though unincorporated regions generate their full 1% of the property tax revenue, they are forced to hand over a goodly chunk of it to be apportioned to cities that are now bound by the state mandated 1% cap also.

Of course subsequently AB8 passed which allowed the respective INCREASES in property value assessments to be allocated geographically, so over the last 35 years, the subsidy has become muted. But by my figures, something over 3.5 cents of every dollar of property taxes paid by owners in unincorporated areas are used to fund your CITY services for which the unincorporated owners receive little or no benefit!

Add in the fact that city SALES tax accounts for half the amount of taxes that property taxes does, and you end up realizing that those residents which shop in incorporated areas are also subsidizing you.

SOOOO, I SAY THOSE OF US IN UNINCORPORATED AREAS SHOULD BOYCOTT PURCHASES IN MENLO PARK FOR 90 DAYS IF THIS RATE INCREASE IS PUT INTO PLACE. LET THEIR CITY BUSINESSES PROVIDE INPUT TO THEIR CITY COUNCIL ABOUT THE WISDOM OF THIS APPROACH!


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Mar 29, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Resident Youth Fees for any child who attends a school inside Menlo Park. I don't think childern should be left out.


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Posted by Agree
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 31, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I cry foul,

The rate increase is already in place. Non-residents are requesting a decrease or removal. It's a percentage figure pulled out of the sky that SHOULD reflect what the market would bear, suggesting that the Residents actually get a discount for City services for being tax payers, although classes and camps are not really subsidized when you factor in all of the overhead costs. The resident rate is really the market rate and the non-resident activity rate is just a deterrent IMHO.

Anyhow, did you notice they also charge Non-resident rates for classes held outside of their City, like at the Redwood City Ice Rink. 35% convenience fee. Sheesh.


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Posted by choices
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 31, 2014 at 1:22 pm

whaaaa.....??? Someone chooses to live outside the city in an unincorporated area and then cries that their choice cost them an occasional couple bucks?

Who made the choice here?


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Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 1, 2014 at 11:38 am

Stu Soffer is a registered user.

There's another rationale for a surcharge on non-MP residents for use of MP recreation programs. That is Measure T, the bond measure paid through parcel taxes MP City properties to improve recreation facilities. This is borne by MP property owners/residents, whether or not they use the recreation programs.


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Posted by Old MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2014 at 5:31 pm

@ i cry: I won't argue your point about the amount of taxes paid. However you did not address the key point of contention - which is that the county residents do not pay property taxes to the City of Menlo Park (only to Las Lomitas or MP school districts). The county residents do not pay for city services such as police, recreation, infrastructure/utilities, etc.

We can debate the amount of the surcharge, but to say that no surcharge should be paid would not be equitable to those who live within city boundaries.

Don't be petty or silly. You can boycott MP businesses...but then perhaps you shouldn't use the roads built and maintained by MP residents - that would be consistent with your point of view. Silliness begins now.


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Posted by i cry foul
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 1, 2014 at 6:38 pm

I barely use Menlo Park services, so I'm not really complaining on my own behalf. But those properties in unincorporated Menlo Park are getting royally screwed.

Measure T - that's great. You Menlo Park owners are paying $14 per $100,000 of assessed value to your city's rec program.

Compare that to unincorporated property owners who are seeing a minimum of twice that amount of approximately $35 per $100,000 of assessed value reapportioned into city service coffers for which they see literally no benefit.

Your city balances its budget on the back of unincorporated owners. Before Prop 13, you would have had a valid point but today it's just a joke. We unincorporated owners are your city's sugar daddies and that has nothing to do with a few dollar rec surcharge and everything to do with political appeasement.

If you live in Menlo Park, feel good because you're getting a subsidized ride on the backs of those unincorporated neighbors around you.


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Posted by i cry foul
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 1, 2014 at 6:45 pm

> The county residents do not pay for city services such as police, recreation, infrastructure/utilities, etc.

Just to be clear, that's exactly what we do. Nobody directly pays city tax. Property taxes are paid to the county and then reapportioned according to state law. Because no city could make its budget balance, SB154 was scrambled together in 1979 to reallocate dollars from those cities and counties which were in 1978 charging less than the average rate of tax to those cities which were charging more than the average.

My tax dollars are literally used to balance your city's budget which includes park and rec, and every other service your city offers.


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Posted by john
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 2, 2014 at 9:01 pm

Be careful what you "wish for" Menlo Park. MP has some 70% increase in kids, and a corresponding increase in field usage. The MP overflow spills into Redwood City, into Woodside, into Portola Valley, etc. to help with the soccer and baseball fields, the basketball courts, etc. If you raise rates, you'll likely set off a corresponding hike in rates from the neighboring towns. And when you do the math on how many MP kids play in neighboring cities, compared to how many non MP kids play on MP fields, you'll likely say "oops never mind". MP population of kids dominates West Alpine Little League, the local soccer leagues, etc. Check your numbers, before you fire off a "tariff war" with the other regional Towns, some of whom have a far greater ratio of fields/kids that MP has. Please be thoughtful, not reactionary.


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Posted by taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2014 at 9:49 am

Stu Soffer makes the best point about why Menlo Park residents should have first chance to enroll and lower fees than non-residents who don't. We pay the taxes that pay for the recreation facilities and for the programs (bond measures and general fund).
The complaint seems to be about both getting shut out of popular programs and paying fees that are too high. I fail to see why non-residents should shut out residents from popular programs. The fee issue may warrant examination but don't pretend these balance Menlo Park's budget.


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Posted by i cry foul
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 3, 2014 at 10:33 am

> The fee issue may warrant examination but don't pretend these balance Menlo Park's budget.

I agree with you that the extra fees don't balance Menlo Park's budget. My claim is that cities within the county receive a subsidy from unincorporated owners from their property taxes which are disproportionately allocated according to their source. It's a zero sum gain, some cities get more than the share of city appropriation based on their property values only because other cities and unincorporated owners are allocated less.

That said, I'm going to let Menlo Park off the hook on this one. I spent some time digging into the full details of the apportioning, and Menlo Park appears to be a net donor overall even this regard. Not as much of a donor as unincorporated owners or owners in Woodside or Portola Valley, but a donor nonetheless.

The most recent CA State cities report shows 2011-12 appropriations of about $8.7M on $10.4B of assessed value. So about 8.3% of every dollar of local property tax payment is returned to the city of Menlo Park.

I haven't done the full computation, but it looks like the average appropriation across the county is about 11%, so you Menlo Park residents, so I apologize to those Menlo Park residents who might have been offended by my sugar daddy remark.

For comparison:

Woodside $1.9M appropriated on $4.3B assessed = 4.4% retained locally.
Portola Valley $0.83M appropriated on $2.4B assessed = 3.5% retained locally.
Atherton $5.3M appropriated on $6.6B assessed = 8% retained locally.
Colma $60K(!) appropriated on $503M assessed = .11% (seriously)
Unincorporated County Residents for services $5.2M on $13B assessed = 4% retained locally.

So who are the big net recipients?

Pacifica $8.6M appropriated on $4.4B assessed = 19.5% retained locally
Redwood City $25.7M appropriated on $14.7B assessed = 17.5% retained locally
East Palo Alto $4.1M appropriated on $2.1B assessed = 19.5% retained locally

Pretty interesting to me that it shakes out this way....


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Posted by i cry foul
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 3, 2014 at 10:49 am

btw, I really meant 1.1% retained locally for Colma


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Posted by Menlo Park supporter
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 12, 2014 at 2:33 pm

I hope that if any special considerations are made for those who live in the unincorporated areas of Menlo Park regarding waiving the one week delay in registration, that these same considerations will be made for those who live in Atherton. We have the same circumstances: We support Menlo Park establishments and add to the sales tax base because we don't have retail of our own, our kids go to the same MPCSD or Los Lomitas schools (except for those residences in the Selby/RWC area) and we don't have our own home town recreation program with gymnastics, etc.

We completely understand that because we don't pay Menlo Park property taxes, an upcharge is reasonable. However, the delayed registration policy is deeply dismaying. It's really tough on a young kid to hear that she can't do a sport with her close classmates who she's attended school with her whole life because she lives on one side of Valparaiso instead of the other, or to hear that although she was in the class last session, she can't continue on this session because she was locked out, so she needs to fall behind her friends.


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