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February 08, 2006

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Publication Date: Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Woodside: Good news in mid-year budget Woodside: Good news in mid-year budget (February 08, 2006)

** Council OKs adding assistant town manager job.

By Andrea Gemmet

Almanac Staff Writer

Between the $1.1 million windfall in back property tax money and the strong growth in sales tax and property transfer tax revenues, the town of Woodside is in good shape at the fiscal year's halfway mark.

"We are, in fact, doing very well this year," said Woodside Town Manager Susan George to the Town Council at its January 24 meeting.

Along with neighboring Portola Valley, Woodside is reaping the benefits of a $1.1 million payment from San Mateo County. The windfall is for property tax revenues due to the town over the past two years, stemming from a 1988 state law to ensure that towns get a fair share of property taxes. Woodside expects to see an extra half-million dollars a year as a result.

Ms. George said there is some question as to whether the town is actually getting the full 7 percent of property tax revenue it is entitled to, and told the council that she and Town Attorney Jean Savaree are looking into it along with their Portola Valley counterparts.

The town's annual budget is a little over $6 million for the current fiscal year.

It's not all about money coming into town, however. Woodside is facing a few higher-than-anticipated expenses from lawsuits and the need to hire contract workers in the planning department.

The council approved spending an additional $215,000 this fiscal year. That amount includes $105,000 for plan-check and building inspection contract services, $50,000 for a contract planner and $60,000 for legal fees associated with code-enforcement cases. Ms. George said the town expects to eventually recover the legal expenses.

Since the town can afford it, Ms. George said it made sense to start looking for an assistant town manager right away, rather than waiting until the start of the next fiscal year on July 1, as originally planned. Town staff has been buried under a number of special projects as well as the day-to-day workload, Ms. George said.

"We are just drowning and I'm afraid that if we wait until July to start recruitment, we will be under," Ms. George said.

As usual, council members had no complaints about Ms. George's handling of the town's finances, as she approaches her 13th anniversary as town manager.

"You're doing a great job for us, Susan," said Councilman Dave Tanner. "You took us from being broke to being back in the black."

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