Menlo Park budget dips into reserves


Menlo Park plans to dip into its reserves by just over a half-million dollars to fill the gap between revenue and spending in the next fiscal year. The City Council approved the 2010-11, $38.1 million budget at its June 22 meeting.

Councilman Andy Cohen, who remained silent during the budget discussion, cast the only vote opposing the budget.

The spending plan leaves the utility users' tax at 1 percent, and calls for a staff reduction of the equivalent of almost seven positions -- a cutback that represents about $800,000 in savings, according to Assistant City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson.

Four other staff positions that are now vacant are also under review to determine whether they need to be filled or can be cut, Ms. Jerome-Robinson said.

The $571,675 budgeted from the $25.5 million reserve includes $103,000 in anticipated costs for the ongoing project to create a specific plan for the downtown/El Camino Real area.

For the current fiscal year, the city had budgeted nearly $400,000 in spending from the reserve, but bumped that figure up to nearly $1.2 million mid-year because of lower-than-expected revenues.

The 2010-11 budget anticipates an increase of about $300,000 in property tax revenue; about $229,000 in sales tax revenue; and about $222,000 in hotel tax revenue.

Several residents spoke at the meeting against spending from the reserves, and the council also received e-mails from residents opposing the plan.

But council members noted that the city has been reining in costs and continues to look for more spending efficiencies. "We're going in the right direction, based on the numbers I've seen," Mayor Rich Cline said.

Saying that he doesn't want to "slash and burn services," Councilman John Boyle said: "We are in a recession. And we have the luxury of a reserve we could potentially dip into."

The budget is based on an analysis by staff of "all operations of the (city) from a long-term point of view," according to a staff report. That review, called "2010 and Beyond," resulted in the identification of "strategies which would help move the city toward a sustainable budget in the long term," the report said.

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Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jun 25, 2010 at 12:13 pm

The next comment here will be to the effect that this city needs people running it who understand how to manage budgets and make hard decisions.

What they won't say is that the two council members quoted in this article have more business experience than most council members who have served over the past ten years.

It is silly really, to expect this forum to change. This is all about politics and elections.

Just wait for it...(and for the record, I did not vote for Boyle but I have enough respect for what he brings not to be childish).

Like this comment
Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 25, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Enough Kelly

The City Council should work on cutting expenses before going into OUR reserves. Cutting some highly paid positions is a start.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 25, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Such an important story for the hometown of the Almanac on the Tues meeting - so why the heck does it take the Almanac three days for the story to show up online!

Like this comment
Posted by hopeful
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Taking half a million dollars from a $25 million dollar reserve during a recession doesn't sound unreasonable or irresponsible to me. From what I've been reading, it sounds as if the city really is trying to get costs under control, including the fastest-rising costs: employee compensation. I just hope they can put the brakes on that spending fast enough to save services that are important to the community.

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Posted by services impact?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 27, 2010 at 3:17 pm

I would be interested to learn to what extent services have been cut. I think certain ones have reached an unacceptable level as it seems that many of the streets in town are in bad condition (a safety issue) and others quickly deteriorating. Often the city balances the budget by postponing needed maintenance and repairs, and it appears that this has been going on for too long.
ANother possibility is that the city's specifications quality standards are inadequate for the amount of heavy traffic that our development-crazed city allows?

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

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