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February 08, 2006

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Publication Date: Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Atherton's in the money Atherton's in the money (February 08, 2006)

** Town revenues may exceed expectations by $700,000.

By Andrea Gemmet

Almanac Staff Writer

The mid-year budget report is in, and the news is good -- Atherton is poised to end the fiscal year with $736,000 more than expected.

The extra money flowing into town coffers should make it possible for Atherton to divert $700,000 of parcel tax revenues earmarked for the day-to-day operating expenses and use the money for capital projects instead.

Barring any unexpected fiscal misfortune in the next six months, town officials will have the happy task of figuring out how to spend the extra money during the annual budget deliberations.

According to budget projections, the town will end the fiscal year with about $223,000 more than expected in property tax revenues, largely due to homes sales that boosted the appraised value of Atherton's real estate.

Atherton's appraised property value is on track to grow by 15 percent, said Finance Director John Johns.

"Last year was an extraordinary year for houses turning over," Mr. Johns told the Atherton City Council at its January 18 meeting. "We had over $720 million-worth of property turning over."

Another major contributor to the surplus is an expected $237,000 from vehicle license fee revenues, according to Mr. Johns.

Atherton has an $8.7 million operating budget for the current fiscal year, and a $4.8 million capital improvement budget.
Capital improvements

Town staff has helpfully identified $2 million more of capital improvement projects for the City Council's consideration, including installing a $250,000 retaining wall on Marsh Road along the Atherton Channel, replacing antiquated light fixtures in the Oak Park neighborhood for $100,000 or doing the first phase of improvements to Holbrook-Palmer Park identified by the landscape master plan, to the tune of $1.3 million. And that doesn't include drainage system improvements to fix the town's chronic flooding problems for an unknown price tag.

The City Council voted 4-0 to send the mid-year budget report to the town's Finance Committee for recommendations on how to spend the money.

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