Atherton: Budget reflecting layoffs approved, but outsourcing plan still not firm


An "interim bridge budget" that reflects the layoff of 13 town staff members was passed by Atherton's City Council on June 15, but the question of whether the pink-slipped employees will actually lose their jobs has yet to be resolved.

The council unanimously signed off on the interim operating budget of $10.53 million, but not before hearing from a number of union representatives, town employees and residents about the plan to outsource the building department and the public works department, which performs streets and park work.

Rudy Gonzalez, a representative from Teamsters Local 856, warned the council that even if private contractors initially agree to low rates for their services, "eventually those costs go up," and the town will be stuck without in-house services for which it can control costs.

Building inspector Joseph Aiello, who was handed a pink slip late last month, cited figures indicating that the building department "is busy and getting busier." Noting that the department is designed to operate on a self-supporting enterprise fund, covering costs from fees charged for plan checking and inspections, he said "there's no legitimate reason to lay off staff."

The town last week delayed the planned layoff, originally to be effective June 30, to July 15 while talks with the union continue. Employees had offered about 12 percent in concessions, which represented about $167,000, but last week increased proposed concessions to amount to about $300,000 according to union representative Peter Finn.

Interim City Manager John Danielson had estimated the planned outsourcing of the services to save the town about $276,000, Mr. Finn said. Mr. Danielson could not be reached for comment.

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. The town is set to meet again with union representatives on June 27, according to Mr. Gonzalez.

After the question of how town services will be delivered next fiscal year is resolved, Mr. Danielson will come back to the council with a revised budget. The council asked that the final budget be brought back in 90 days or less.

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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

From: Peter Carpenter
Date: June 15, 2011 8:06:04 PM PDT
To: Atherton Town Council
Subject: The challenges of a survey

Dear Council,
It was suggested tonight that the Town conduct a survey of its citizens regarding appropriate responses to the current fiscal crisis.

First, we have a representative system of Town government and the five of you have been elected to represent us. We the citizens have already spoken in electing you and in placing our trust in your judgement.

Second, surveys done properly are expensive and take time - we have neither the luxury of time nor a surfeit of funds.

Third, surveys are very difficult to do well:
- A key issues would be the exact wording of the questions and the price tag to put on each item that people are being asked to say yes or no to. Everybody will want anything that is free.
- Another issue will be to get a statistically valid response rate in a Town that has primarily unlisted phones, lots of locked gates and with a propensity to discard unsolicited snail and email.
- Previous surveys were compromised by low sample sizes and a biased response rate by advocates.
- Similarly, past elections were biased by very aggressive campaigns to get out the Yes vote and no organized opposition.
- Finally, there will be the difficult problem of more people saying in an anonymous survey that they would be willing to pay X than people who would actual pay X or vote for a corresponding parcel tax.

I recommend that you move forward with your decision making via properly agendized public meetings with full opportunity for public comments and that you continue to exercise the individual judgements that you were elected to make.


Peter Carpenter

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 16, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Here, Here Mr. Carpenter. Survey's typically are a unwise use of taxpayer's money and time, as you have stated. Some people may moan and groan, but they are usually the naysayers about everything. Thank you for your commentary and observation. Time to move forward !

Like this comment
Posted by Faxon Dean
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm


On a recent topic involving the parcel tax, you assert that the number of residents who vote doesn’t amount to a mandate to retain the Police Department. Despite the parcel tax being marketed as “Safety First”, you observe that the vote wasn’t about outsourcing.

Yet, within 72 hours, you claim that the will of the people is represented by the vote and that the residents should NOT have the opportunity to participate in a survey.

The flaw in your switch lies in the numbers, specifically the vote counts which got these current Council Members into office:

2,332 Widmer
2,046 Carlson
1,856 McKeithen
1,774 Lewis
1,714 Dobbie

The parcel tax passed with a 2/3’d majority with only 1,426 votes. If we accept your premise that the parcel tax vote wasn’t representative, then the Council members aren’t representative either (in fact their percentages were on average in the twenties).

There are over 7,000 residents of which 5,900 are registered to vote. None of these tallies appear to be a mandate for action.

A survey of resident preferences, including their attitudes on outsourcing the Police Department, is a welcome development. I applaud the Council for recognizing the limits of their mandate and for pursuing this option.

Like this comment
Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 16, 2011 at 9:10 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Read my comments carefully - I properly challenged the assertion that 76% of all Athertonians supported the police department which is simply a factually incorrect statement. 70% of all Atherton residents did not vote so there is no way that the parcel tax vote could have reflected the view of 76% of the residents.

Like this comment
Posted by The law won
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm

What happened to the arrests John Johns was supposed to make?

Looks like he put his tail between his legs and ran away, just like the day he was walked out the door.

Just a lot of boastful talk and no action from this guy. He'd better leave the jobs that require real men to the Police Officers.

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

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