BriefS: Menlo Park reopens main libraryAfter a month of renovation, the main Menlo Park public library at 800 Alma St. will be back in business at noon Tuesday, June 19, according to staff.
The library closed in May for an overhaul of the circulation area, installation of new carpeting, and inventory. The four new checkout stations use radio frequency identification tags (RFID) to let patrons check out more than one item at a time, and, one hopes, with less hassle than the old system, staff said.
Funding for the upgrades came from three sources: $175,000 from the general fund capital improvement budget for carpet replacement; $90,000 from a library bond fund for the circulation area; and $147,000 from the public library fund and general fund for the RFID conversion.
Library staff will help users navigate the new self-checkout system. In a press release, library director Susan Holmer said the library circulates 750,000 items each year. "Automating routine transactions will mean more staff time is available for other kinds of more personal assistance, and will enable us to handle an increasing number of transactions. We hope everyone will drop by to see the new look for the library and check out the self checkout system."
Council passes budget
The Menlo Park City Council passed a $68 million budget for fiscal year 2012-13, but the budget is balanced on the hope that voters will approve an increase in the city's hotel tax in November.
The budget depends on increasing the hotel guest tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent. According to staff calculations, passing the higher tax would raise more than $560,000 annually for the city, and bring local rates in line with neighboring cities, including Palo Alto and Redwood City. It would also contribute to a $260,000 surplus in next year's budget.
All five Menlo Park council members voted to put the hotel tax on the Nov. 6 ballot. San Mateo County voters failed to pass a similar measure in the June 5 election, with 52.3 percent of voters opposing the tax increase.
The council also decided to leave the utility users tax at 1 percent. At the same time, it supported continued cost-cutting measures by the city that include reducing staff as possible — the city lost seven fulltime positions this year, according to a staff report — and taking small steps such as using electronic agendas instead of paper.
A former employee allegedly embezzled more than $100,000 from Menlo Atherton Glass, according to police.
Details about how the 27-year-old woman reportedly stole the money and what tipped off the store remain scarce, as police are still piecing together what happened. The theft was reported on June 8.
Mark Shafran, who has owned the business at 243 El Camino Real since 1988, declined to comment while the investigation continues.