Ex-mayor may go to voters over outsourcing


This is an expanded version of a previously published story.

In the face of the possible layoff of 13 town employees and elimination of in-house building and public works services, former mayor Malcolm Dudley said he and other citizens will launch a ballot initiative drive if the town won't survey residents to see if they're willing to pay a higher parcel tax to balance the budget.

Mr. Dudley, speaking for himself and former mayor Jim Janz, urged the City Council at its June 15 meeting to ask residents whether they would pay an additional $350 annually to avoid the extreme measures being considered: the layoff of more than half the town's non-police staff, and the outsourcing of services they had provided.

"I don't agree there's a fiscal crisis," he said. "Any time you can solve the problem for $1 a day, it's not a crisis."

Later in the meeting, the council unanimously passed an "interim bridge budget" that reflects the layoff of the employees, who were given pink slips on May 31, but the question of whether they will actually lose their jobs has yet to be resolved.

The town two weeks ago 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 in savings to the town, but on June 9 increased proposed concessions to about $300,000, according to union representative Peter Finn.

The interim operating budget approved last week 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.

Before the budget vote, the council heard from a number of union representatives, town employees and residents about the plan to outsource services.

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.

He also praised public employees as "dedicated to the community they serve," contrasting them with private contractors who "will be dedicated to the bottom line."

Building inspector Joseph Aiello, one of the employees handed a pink slip, cited figures indicating that the building department "is busy and getting busier." Noting that the department is designed to operate as 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."

Residents who spoke included Peter Carpenter, who praised the council and interim city manager for "coming to grips" with the town's financial problems and moving Atherton "in the right direction"; and Melinda Tevis, who stated that "a town is more than just a business."

Loren Gruner said she was disturbed to hear about pending layoffs and "the fact that we are just wiping so many people off the board." She suggested looking at other ways, perhaps some way to generate sales tax, to balance the budget.

"I hate to see us outsource everything," she said, adding that she fears a drop in service level if the town does so.


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

Mr. Finn, a union representative involved in negotiations, said he hopes the town will accept the $300,000 worth of concessions employees are offering, noting that Interim City Manager John Danielson had estimated the planned outsourcing of the services to save the town about $276,000.

The town's savings projections won't be firmed up, however, until bids from private firms interested in providing the services come in. They are due in Town Hall on June 24.

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 Ed
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 21, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Malcolm Dudley is a wonderful man, and as always has only the best of intentions for a Town he has loved long and loved well. He has earned the right to feel nostalgic and loyal to a past that is now in constant conflict with the economy. But I am sorry to see his cause so closely allied with Jim Janz who (with some help from past co- council) is largely responsible for putting the Town in the jeopardy that it is in today.

[Portion removed. Accusation of illegal or improper conduct.}

Like this comment
Posted by PW In PD Out
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm

I'd like to see the numbers please. Where does the town post a detailed budget to substantiate the needs for outsourcing about the only revenue generating department the town has. Atherton will save far more in the long run by outsourcing the PD. We don't need a chief. And how many chiefs has Atherton had retire out in the past 6 years? And what is that costing the town? I love it when a lt gets promoted to chief, remains the chief for less than a year and then retires out on $125,000 per year with benefits. And then on top of that tax payer funded retirement manages to get a consulting job. These retirements plans the PD has are a joke and too large of a burden to carry on.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 22, 2011 at 6:27 am

Dudley states:""Any time you can solve the problem for $1 a day, it's not a crisis.""

Why not say you can solve the problem for 4 cents an hour?

What would be required to eliminate the structural deficit this year would be a parcel tax INCREASE of $400 per year. And that parcel tax increase would have to be even larger next year and every year thereafter.

Why spend $40,000 on an election to simply ask people IF they would pay this increase? Why not have a vote on a new parcel tax which includes the current average parcel tax of $400 plus another $400 for a total of $800 and a promise to ask for more next year? The best reason not to have such an election is that it would fail by a wide margin.

We DO have a financial crisis and eliminating the structural deficit is the only way to solve that crisis.

Like this comment
Posted by Answer
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 22, 2011 at 6:54 am

Dudley is very confused. He thinks that escalating salaries and pensions can go on forever, and the only solution is to ask residents to pay more and more taxes. He ignores the other, obvious, solution of bringing these salaries and pensions and benefits down. He accepts as a reality that they simply have to go up and if they don't, services will suffer. He's wrong, he's confused, and he shouldn't be making decisions for anyone anymore.

[Portion deleted.]

Bottom line is that Janz and Dudley are both wrong. They might have a smidgen more credibility if they both came to the council meeting with their own personal $25,000 checks to help defray the deficit this year, with a commitment to keep the money coming. But why should they? Like every politico in D.C., they can continue to get their special treatment by asking the rest of us to pay for it.

Like this comment
Posted by Answer
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 22, 2011 at 7:08 am

By the way, "PW In PD Out", Nielsen left with a pension closer to $150,000 per year and free medical for him and his family, for life (Cadillac plan), and a $150,000 vacation payout bonus on top of that. Guerra is next in line to "retire". Both Nielsen and Brennan before him continue to work for the county drawing other large salaries on top of their pensions.

Like this comment
Posted by APOA
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 22, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Public comment at Council meeting regarding this topic:

Part 1 - Web Link

Part 2 - Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Chroniclers of Rome Burning
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 23, 2011 at 12:48 am

Hey APOA, don't you think it's ironic that you, not the town, can afford to do all this video recording and editing? I must say, it's a fine job, and clearly time and money is being spent. But when the meetings involve chronicling the town going bankrupt, perhaps it's time to step back and wonder how you guys have the money to do this in the first place. It just doesn't make sense.

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

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