Woodside town manager 'cautiously optimistic' on weathering recession


As predicted last year at this time by Woodside's town manager, the local economy has bumped along and is pretty much where it was a year ago, and as the new budget year approaches, the town's fiscal house remains in order.

The projected reserve on a general fund budget of $5.6 million is $1.9 million, Town Manager Susan George said in a report to the Town Council. The council met June 3 to review the 2010-11 budget.

"I continue to be cautiously optimistic that the town will weather the current economic times relatively unscathed and with adequate reserves intact," she said in the report. "We are able to continue all current programs and levels of service with no adjustment for the next fiscal year and beyond. We can also take on a few discrete new projects with confidence."

Her report recommends setting aside $40,000 to redo the town's Web site by a designer experienced with local government priorities, and $80,000 to repaint Independence Hall and upgrade the 20-year-old heating and ventilation systems at the town center complex. Town Hall still has offices that are not air conditioned, Ms. George told the council.

A new roof is coming to Town Hall, but spending the $35,000 set aside for it should be delayed until after a finding on the useful life of the current roof, the report said. Plans for roof-mounted solar panels, a $100,000 line item, should be put on hold pending a report later this year on the availability of funding assistance.

The town should drop plans for an on-site wastewater recovery system at the town center complex, the report said. One purpose of that system -- to set an example in a town with troublesome geography for septic tanks -- can be addressed less expensively through public education, and helped by a willingness of residents who own such systems to share information.

The council pushed back. In the interest of saving money, the town should not restrict its Web site redesign inquiries to companies specializing in government sites, council members Peter Mason and Deborah Gordon said.

The council is considering raising fees for permits and other charges to residents who build or remodel homes. The increases would be in keeping with a policy that requires fees to more or less pay for the work done by staff.

The staff members doing that work report to two departments, each with its own budget: public works, and planning and building. The overall budget needs a breakdown of these shared responsibilities to better assess the true costs of staff time, council members said.

Expenses up

The animal control budget is way up, but most of the $36,000 increase is a reckoning for the past three years. Over that time, the Peninsula Humane Society has received a "much higher than estimated" volume of calls from Woodside for matters such as lost dogs and feral cats, Ms. George told the council.

The current estimate of $87,000 is a 71 percent increase over the preliminary budget number of $51,000 from earlier this year.

"I haven't seen (a Humane Society) truck in town for an entire year," Councilman Dave Tanner remarked skeptically.

"Believe me," Ms. George said, "this is still a lot cheaper than having your own animal control program."

The budget shows a $900,000 expense for redesigning the interior of the library, a community-participation project that is in its early stages. The money will be drawn from the library's $2.1 million reserve, all of which must be used for library purposes, Ms. George said.

Good news about revenues

In a bit of surprising news, the town experienced an 8.7 percent increase in property tax revenues over the past 12 months, Ms. George said. The projected rate for 2010-11 is almost flat and changes from day to day, but the trend has been upward recently, she added.

Sales tax revenue has also trended upward. The first quarter was "pretty strong, pretty encouraging," Ms. George said.

Retirement costs will rise between 1 and 2 percent as a result of stock market losses by CalPERS, the public employee retirement fund. The town will owe $34,000 and pay it over five years.

Salary costs will not rise: no raises and no stepped increases for the next 12 months, Ms. George said.

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Like this comment
Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Is that report, which is quite commendable, published or online?
Out of curiosity, is there open bidding for the contractors and painters who will be doing the work on the Town Hall and the library as well as the solar panels, when the time comes?
The prices are so very fair in these times, I was also wondering if the bids had already been made in order to have put the report together.
I am impressed by the low figures Ms. George has come up with.
Does restoring and moving the Steven Jobs' Jackling house come under your umbrella as projected expenses; and if not, where does that money come from? It sounds costly along with legal expenses if they are in your domain.
Finally, in local government, do you use our planning commission to oversee the work done and the plans submitted in order to keep all things copasetic and have no cost overruns.
I am still unclear as who is taking Mr. Richard Gordon's spot in the Bldg. Dept. now that he is going to be leaving----or has he left?
I have been in Chicago and have missed a week of what is going on.
When will your staff members from the two departments with its own separate budgets for "public works and planning and building in order to better assess the true costs of staff time."

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 7, 2010 at 6:12 pm

R. Gordon -

First, thank you for the comments about the management of the Town of Woodside. I'm not sure to whom you are directing these questions.

With regard to the Jobs' house, Mr. Jobs or the new purchaser pays for the demolition and/or removal, not the town. A new buyer would pay for the restoration, not the town.

Yes, Woodside uses a bidding system for major purchases.

Woodside has a volunteer Planning Commission and a volunteer Architectural Site and Review Board which advise the town's staff. But they do not "oversee" the staff, the staff is charged with managing affairs.

I have no idea who you are talking about regarding Richard Gordon in the Building Department who is leaving.

But why don't you take a moment and check out the Town of Woodside's web site? All Town Council agendas and minutes are posted.

Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2010 at 1:48 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

I am too busy with my overseas projects. I am keeping only two properties in the area, and am rid of the rest.
I am not a fan of Richard Gordon, and am going to do my best to keep tabs on him.
Does it mention the salary he would receive as Assembly man for the 21st District.
My staff is involved with things pertaining to charitable causes both in Africa and Haiti.
I would take the time before leaving again to support Mr.Gordon's opposition. I am sorry I did not have the time to do the same with the Coroner's election.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 10, 2010 at 2:22 pm

R. Gordon -

I have no idea who you are referring to when you reference "Richard Gordon." To my knowledge, no such person works in Town Hall.

Sorry, you're too busy with your "overseas projects" to pick up the phone and call Woodside's Town Manager. I guess your questions will just have to go unanswered.

PS - We're all pretty busy.

Like this comment
Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2010 at 12:27 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Mr. POGO...I KNOW you are busy being online almost non stop, but MY being busy involves travel to Africa, planning trips back East and meetings and only check up to get proper, civilized answers from experts, such as yourself.
Mr.Gordon is the Supervisor for the third District and useless and is running for assemblyman....a joke given his performance and regard by the citizens of SAN MATEO COUNTY who have had painfully inadequate tales posted right here near mine.
Did you elect a new Coroner? Nobody likes to talk about that being that to qualify, all you must be able to do is prove you are 18 and nothing else.
About this "WOODSIDE VOLUNTEERING COMMISSION"... who picks them?
Woodsideans, woodpeckers or whatever name locals are called?
Though you are busy, I would like to hear the unanswered replies to the questions I posed a few weeks ago, above.
I would do your work for you, but in Africa, I have other things to do.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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