Atherton budget may pass, but questions remain


A budget that has yet to be reviewed at a public meeting may be approved by the Atherton City Council on Wednesday, June 15, with the understanding that a revision will be required once key questions -- such as whether public services will be outsourced -- are resolved.

The council will review a proposed operating budget for fiscal year 2011-12 of about $10.53 million and a capital budget of about $1.1 million. The fiscal year begins July 1, and a budget must be approved to keep the town going while town hall, led by an interim city manager hired to plant the economically ailing town on solid fiscal ground, reviews options for cutting costs.

Interim City Manager John Danielson was unavailable for comment, but Finance Director Louise Ho said the proposed spending plan assumes a balanced budget, which means that spending cannot exceed projected revenues of $10.53 million. But because the town hasn't made a final decision over outsourcing the building and public services departments, how the balance will be struck has yet to be determined.

A call for bids from private firms interested in providing the services has been issued, but proposals aren't due until June 24, and until they are reviewed, it is unknown how much such outside services would cost the town.

Vice Mayor Bill Widmer, a member of the town's Finance Committee, said he has only recently seen the proposed budget, having been out of town for several weeks. But the document has been a work in progress, and the push toward outsourcing the two departments was begun after the Finance Committee reviewed an earlier preliminary budget in April. The earlier version assumed that those departments would remain in house, he said.

Police donations

Also on the council agenda is Mr. Widmer's request for council approval of a resolution requiring specific donations made to the police department to be made anonymously, through the city manager or city attorney's office.

In a memo to the council, supported by Councilwoman Kathy McKeithen, Mr. Widmer noted that recent donations to the police department have raised concerns by some residents that the contributions "may result in favoritism."

The council agreed at its May meeting to forward the issue to this month's agenda for discussion.

At the May meeting, Mr. Widmer also proposed, with support by Ms. McKeithen, that the council consider forming an ethics oversight board for the town. Under Mr. Widmer's proposal, the board would confidentially review citizen complaints of actions by town employees, and return to the council with a recommendation. The ethics board idea was nixed in a 3-2 vote.

The meeting is set to begin at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, 94 Ashfield Road in the Town Center.

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