News

Menlo council looks at $1.3 million in budget cuts

Amends budget, focuses on personnel costs

The $1.3 million in cuts proposed for Menlo Park's general fund will largely come from reducing personnel costs, according to a staff report presented at the March 15 council meeting, saving an estimated $681,000.

The city has already eliminated 10 fulltime equivalent positions; the remaining employees, with the exception of public safety workers, have seen no salary or benefit increases or bonuses during the past year, and won't expect any for at least another year, City Manager Glen Rojas said.

The national economy continues to hammer away at Menlo Park's revenues. "We're pretty much stuck at a less than desirable return on our investments," Finance Director Carol Augustine said of the city's portfolio, which is responsible for the largest reduction of general fund revenue. Sales tax revenues also took the brunt of the impact from the recession during past three years, she said, dropping 10 percent for two years before nose-diving 20 percent last year.

"I'm looking at the next year as much as possible," said Mayor Rich Cline, pointing out that often the city is too late to fix the situation before passing the budget for an upcoming fiscal year, and asking Ms. Augustine what makes a budget balanced.

"A balanced budget can mean many things to many people," Ms. Augustine answered. "The way Menlo Park has defined 'balanced budget' is that it's a sustainable budget over many economic cycles."

So what direction will the city take for the 2011-2012 fiscal year starting July 1. Staff continues to investigate outsourcing services such as grounds maintenance, janitorial service, parking enforcement, and Onetta Harris Community Center management.

Other options on the table include eliminating frozen positions and drawing from the reserve fund to pay off the city's $7 million unfunded pension liability, as suggested by Councilman Peter Ohtaki, to save $828,000 during the next fiscal year, and nearly $3.6 million in interest charges, according to staff.

Mr. Ohtaki also broached the idea of a 3 percent pay cut for city employees making more than $100,000.

And, of course, further service cuts remain a possibility. The council may consider eliminating the police department's two-officer traffic unit and shutting the public library one day per week or more. Child care at the Menlo Children's Center along with Belle Haven Child Development Center sits alongside those services on the chopping block.

"There's a good need behind it," argued Mayor Cline during a discussion of whether to continue subsidizing the child care centers given that approximately half of the users are East Palo Alto residents. The centers may also lose additional funding if the governor's proposal to shut down redevelopment agencies passes, he said.

Local nonprofits could also lose community funding from the city as they simultaneously attempt to weather drastic decreases in state funding.

The city plans to release a proposed budget by May 12.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 26, 2011 at 2:05 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

The best way to balance the budget and to even have a surplus would be to contract out police service to the Sheriff. Menlo Park could easily save more than $5 million and that would be a permanent reduction not just a one time saving. Use $1.3 million to balance the budget and use the rest to fund currently unfunded pension liabilities.

Menlo Park
As of the census of 2000, there were 30,785 people
17.4 square miles (45 km2), of which
10.1 square miles (26 km2) is land
and 7.3 square miles (19 km2) is water.
Police services budget $14.69 M
$477.148 per capita

Agencies which contract out their police services:

Saratoga
The population was 30,318 at the 2007 census.
The city has a total area of 21.1 square miles
(31.4 km²)
Police costs via County Sheriff $4.34 M
$143 per capita

Woodside
11.8 square miles (30.5 km²)
As of the census of 2000, there were
5,352 people
Police services via County Sheriff $1.3 M
$242 per capita

Portola Valley
The population was 4,462 at the 2000 census
9.2 square miles (23.7 km²)
Police services via Sheriff $498,601
$111 per capita

San Carlos
The population was 27.238 in 2008
5.93 square miles
Police services via proposed Sheriff's contract
$6.8 M
$248.62 per capita





Like this comment
Posted by compare apples please
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 31, 2011 at 5:25 pm

This comparison is not entirely fair. None of these other communities has a similar proportion of lower income residents, none is next to high-crime areas like East Palo Alto.
I don't disagree that our city's costs might be high, but comparisons should be between communities with similar needs, not just similar population.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 31, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Please compare apples states:"None of these other communities has a similar proportion of lower income residents, none is next to high-crime areas like East Palo Alto."

Why should an apple cost twice as much as an orange - regardless of how good each might taste. And San Carlos has a lower median income than Menlo Park and far more lower income residents.

The differences in cost are so great that you cannot dismiss these examples as irrelevant.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 31, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Here are the facts re San Carlos and Menlo Park - not as different as I thought. So why do police services cost $248.62 per capita
 in San Carlos and $477.148 per capita in Menlo Park? That is a $7 Millon difference for essentially the same size city.

San Carlos

According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $99,110, and the median income for a family was $137,325.[4] Males had a median income of $70,554 versus $51,760 for females. The per capita income for the city was $46,628. 2.7% of the population and 1.4% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 2.3% were under the age of 18 and 3.7% were 65 or older.

Menlo Park

As of the 2000 estimate census, the median income for a household in the city was $82,609. Males had a median income of $77,766 versus $59,101 for females. The per capita income for the city was $51,341. About 5.9% of families and 7.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.8% of those under age 18 and 8.7% of those over age 64. As of 2009 the median income for a family was $123,251.[6]


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 31, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Here are the facts re San Carlos and Menlo Park - not as different as I thought. So why do police services cost $248.62 per capita
 in San Carlos and $477.148 per capita in Menlo Park? That is a $7 Millon difference for essentially the same size city.

San Carlos

According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $99,110, and the median income for a family was $137,325.[4] Males had a median income of $70,554 versus $51,760 for females. The per capita income for the city was $46,628. 2.7% of the population and 1.4% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 2.3% were under the age of 18 and 3.7% were 65 or older.

Menlo Park

As of the 2000 estimate census, the median income for a household in the city was $82,609. Males had a median income of $77,766 versus $59,101 for females. The per capita income for the city was $51,341. About 5.9% of families and 7.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.8% of those under age 18 and 8.7% of those over age 64. As of 2009 the median income for a family was $123,251.[6]


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