New Menlo budget includes police pay raise

Commander position gets salary bump

This is an expanded version of a story that previously appeared online.

Although City Manager Glen Rojas characterized it as a restructuring instead of a pay raise, the end result of a 3-2 vote by the Menlo Park City Council on June 14 was to bump up the salary for each police commander by approximately $14,000 a year.

"A rose by any other name," said pension reform advocate Ned Moritz during public comment. "It doesn't matter whether we call it a pay increase or a restructuring. It's still a pay increase."

Council members Kirsten Keith and Peter Ohtaki dissented. Vice Mayor Keith asked to postpone voting on that specific budget item to allow time for further analysis, a move her colleague agreed with. "It's not going to hurt us to review and make sure," Mr. Ohtaki said. But that motion failed 2-3.

Finding balance

The raise passed as part of the city's budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which the council approved.

The new budget closes a $571,675 gap between revenue and expenses through a combination of measures such as paying off $7.16 million of unfunded public safety pension liability for an immediate savings of $828,000, and $3.6 million in interest overall; boosting fees; converting two sworn police officer positions to non-sworn slots; outsourcing some maintenance services; and spending less. Despite talk of raising the utility users tax, the budget assumes that will remain at 1 percent through the fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The 2011-12 budget estimates both revenue and expenses at $37.4 million, compared to the adjusted revenue of $36.8 million and expenses of $37.2 million seen during the previous fiscal year. The staff report acknowledged that revenues could again fall short of projections.

"I think what gets lost is that we have a balanced budget tonight," said Mayor Rich Cline before casting his vote of approval. Referring to the new two-tier pension system and long-term projects that may bring more revenue to the city, he continued, "There are a lot bigger things going on than $14,000 in salary."

You can't compare police work to regular employment, Mayor Cline said, and the data showed the commander earned less in some situations than the sergeants being supervised.

Staff reported that without the pay increase, the salary for a commander fell mid-range compared to other similar cities, while the pay for police officers ranked second, and for sergeants, third.


Labor negotiations remain key to balancing the new budget. The sergeants union recently agreed to a two-year pay freeze, among other concessions, and the city hopes other unions follow suit.

That could be a rocky road. Rene Morales, speaking on behalf of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), told the council it was "just plain wrong" to give raises while laying off people, and asked the council to decide against contracting out grounds and street maintenance. Outsourcing stayed in.

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Like this comment
Posted by Upset
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Gawd people, keep Kirsten and Peter and remove the other spenders from office, don't let Rojas stay on either, once he is retired he is gone ! So, let me understand this, we have a balanced budget with pay increases ? If we didn't have pay increases could we have a small surplus ? The word surplus has been removed from everyone's vocabulary because no one will see one in this decade..Maybe in Latin America, when things didn't go well, they removed (revolted)
against the ruling parties !! Dysfunctionality at it's best, even Atherton is getting it's act together. What a WOW

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 21, 2011 at 12:13 pm

To call this a balanced budget is a joke.
What about the unfunded liabilities?
What about the use of long term reserves for current expenses ?

Like this comment
Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jun 21, 2011 at 9:37 pm

The budget may be technically balanced, but after a decade plus of cut backs on top of cut backs - maintenance, infrastructure, parks, even library hours - we are hardly meeting basic needs with this budget. City services are being swamped by employee costs that keep rising even when we cut positions and freeze salaries, thanks to the "interest only" style of funding pensions. We cannot go on with this kind of "balanced " budget, the math just doesn't work. There's been progress on costs but there is a lot of work still to do - do we have the leadership to do it?

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 22, 2011 at 7:03 am

"do we have the leadership to do it?"

Clearly we don't or this pay raise never would have been put through. Only Keith and Ohtaki seem to have a grasp of the problem. Unfortunately, they don't constitute a majority on the council.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 22, 2011 at 8:36 am

It's obvious that despite their beliefs that 3 council members didn't hear the voice of the people last election. What about tough economic times don't they get? Sure we all want a raise. It's evident now that government employees have some of the best paying jobs. Wake up council and represent the citizens!

Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2011 at 8:38 am

The Council needs to understand that the residents are frustrated with the "Status Quo" governance we've received from them. Their complete ignorance of the budget and spending are exasperating, in light of the current economic conditions they cut services without cutting back staff, and continue to spend money (as my father used to say) "like drunk sailors on shore leave"

Mayor Clines comment that $15,000 was insignificant in light of the rest of the budget is naive and insulting. That $15,000 becomes an additional $400,000 in pension payments over the 32+ years CalPERS says our commanders will live beyond retirement. the MATH. That is REAL money you just gave away.

As I've stated earlier, the November 2012 elections can't come soon enough to rid ourselves of Kelly and Andy, talk about out of touch. They need to go.


Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 22, 2011 at 10:55 am

Actually, the real shame is their arrogance and the amount of damage they will do before the next election.

It would be nice if these elected official REPRESENTED their constituents.

Like this comment
Posted by Anthony
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 22, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Let's not forget that this follows a 30% raise two years ago:

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