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Why Atherton might leave county library system

'Talking points' to be discussed at City Council meeting tonight

Atherton's City Council is considering adopting a set of "talking points" that make it clear that unless a number of concessions are made, Atherton will consider leaving the county library system before the town will share the library tax funds it generates.

The matter will be discussed at the council meeting on Wednesday, April 15, starting at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 94 Ashfield Road.

At an April 1 study session, council members discussed changes in the joint powers agreement being considered by the county library system's governing board. The changes could mean that some property tax funds that now go to Atherton, Woodside and Portola Valley for library use in those towns be shared with the rest of the county libraries.

The first of the proposed talking points says that if the library tax fund issue "cannot be resolved in a reasonable way, the town will be forced to consider withdrawing from the library JPA to protect its fiduciary responsibility to local taxpayers."

Among other things, the talking points listed in a staff report ask that the town get written assurance that the library tax money the town

has already accumulated can be used to build a new library.

The document asks that other changes be made in the current joint power agreement to make it easier for Atherton to leave the system without a financial penalty, and that the town be allowed to spend all the library tax money it generates on its own library before it shares any with the rest of the system.

The talking points document also asks the the joint powers agreement be modified to more broadly define library services for which the tax funds can be spent. It suggests the definition include not only costs of operating a branch library; but also costs of maintaining and replacing branch library facilities, such as buildings, gardens, equipment or vehicles "used in connection with library services." It also suggests the definition include "costs associated with delivering library services," which some members of the city council have proposed doing electronically over a town-wide high-speed fiber optic internet system.

The staff report, including the talking points, is on the town's website.

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Trailer park

The council will also consider what to do about four portable buildings currently housing the town's building and planning offices, that the town staff says are cramped and unsafe.

The town is getting ready to build a new civic center, but the portable buildings won't last another winter, says a report from Community Services Director Michael Kashiwagi. The trailers provide offices and storage for building, planning, public works, code enforcement and town arborist activities.

The report recommends renting new portables and moving them to Holbrook-Palmer Park where the permit center could continue to operate while the new civic center is being built.

Neighborhood Traffic

Also on the agenda is consideration of spending up to $50,000 to pay staff and a consultant to develop a Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan that could identify traffic problems in different areas of Atherton and possible ways to lessen the problems.

Budget

The council will also discuss the town budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2015, focusing on the budgets for city departments including administration, finance, planning, building, public works and police. Budget discussions are also scheduled for May 6, when the capital improvement budget will be discussed; June 6, the final budget study session; and June 15, the final budget review and adoption.

Comments

9 people like this
Posted by It's Atherton's turn
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 15, 2015 at 10:20 am

How narrow minded and self-centered Atherton is...No problem sharing the sports fields and parks of other towns, supported by taxpayers in those towns. But when it comes to sharing library capabilities, it's hands off? It's Atherton's turn to support our peninsula communities.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 10:59 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Sadly Atherton is following the Willie Sutton Rule:

"I rob banks because that is where the money is"

Just watch, their next target will be the Fire District because the Fire District has been fiscally responsible and has established and properly funded reserves for the replacement of its fire stations and apparatus. So now the Town will try to claim some of those dollars. Fortunately the Fire District has its own publicly elected Board and that Board recognizes its obligation to ALL of the citizens of the Fire District.


5 people like this
Posted by bookworm
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 15, 2015 at 12:49 pm

You would think that Atherton would lose more than it gains. Its library is small, and the overall number of books in the county system is much larger. By opting out, Atherton readers lose easy access to the rest of the system's book's, and the rest of the county only loses access to Atherton. From the rest of the county's perspective, let them go.


2 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2015 at 2:32 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Wow, do people still actually use libraries? Borrow library books? Kids still visit libraries? If so, that warms the cockles of my heart. It's been so long since I've seen anyone actually holding a book (instead of a device) in their hand, I had forgotten all about libraries.

Because I am older than the hills, and my eyesight isn't what it used to be, I now read most of my books via my e-reader device, and also my desktop- and laptop computers, because I can make the font size larger, thus making reading much easier for me in my twilight years.

QUESTION: I have a few boxes of books to give away. Who should I contact to come and pick them up?


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"QUESTION: I have a few boxes of books to give away. Who should I contact to come and pick them up?"

The Menlo Park VA would love to have them. Email me and I will pick them up and deliver to the VA.


12 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 15, 2015 at 2:53 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Nice Peter, very nice. The VA certainly can use the books.


2 people like this
Posted by A Good Deal?
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Apr 15, 2015 at 3:49 pm

@Peter regarding the Fire Department ...

Item 22 in this link gives a pretty good treatment of municipal services costs to Atherton, starting with your beloved fire department.

Web Link

You could look at the staffing level of Station #3 and provide a total operational cost
based on a percentage of the overall operations budget, and then, provide an
allocated cost of overhead based on closest station response history for Atherton for
the other stations. There are lots of ways to approach the data. A simplistic view is to
assert that in 2014/15, the total budget (inclusive of admin and capital improvement) is
$37.7m. There are 7 stations. That’s $5.4m per station with distributed overhead and
capital projects included - and $12.6m in revenue from Atherton residents.


5 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 15, 2015 at 3:49 pm

By "vehicles," do they mean Atherton wants its own bookmobile? Probably just trying to keep non-resident rabble out of their precious library. They don't share H-P park. Fine. Let's not let 'em into Burgess or any other non-Ath facilities.

In view of the burgeoning school enrollments, it would be funny if MPCSD shrunk boundaries so Atherton would have to put up their own schools & mount their own district.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 15, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The problem with this analysis by a Town Manager looking for new revenue sources is that he does not even understand the way that the Fire District receives its tax revenue.

The Town Manager states "will receive approximately $12,645,201 in 2014 from the assessed value of Atherton parcels (i.e. from Atherton residents). " This is flatly wrong - the Fire District receives all of its property taxes as a share of the County wide tax revenues, not on the basis of the assessed values in Atherton.

The Fire District provides exactly the same level of service to all of its 90,000 plus residents and the Fire District does not set its own tax rates.

The citizen of Atherton are served by five fire stations (1, 3, 4, 5 and 6) only one of which has taken property off of the Atherton property tax rolls (3). Would Atherton really want the Fire District to acquire another property in Atherton and take that property of the tax rolls? I doubt it.

The Town would be much better served by learning how to control its own expenditures and to establish replacement reserves for its buildings and rolling stock, as does the Fire District, rather than relying on parcel taxes, private donations for replacement buildings and trying to raid the budgets of better managed agencies.


8 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 15, 2015 at 7:23 pm

Downtowner wrote:
> They don't share H-P park. Fine. Let's not let 'em
> into Burgess or any other non-Ath facilities.

This is completely baseless. Menlo-ATHERTON Little League uses Holbrook-Palmer Park, and there are numerous other events that are shared with the public, regardless of address.


> it would be funny if MPCSD shrunk boundaries so
> Atherton would have to put up their own schools
> & mount their own district.

Currently, Half of the MPCSD schools are in ATHERTON (it'll be 40% of all MPCSD schools once Upper Laurel comes online). The school district headquarters is also in ATHERTON.

If MPCSD removed itself from Atherton, we'd get Encinal, Lower Laurel and the HQ. No crowding issues for Atherton, but Menlo Park would have to cram k-5 into "O'Connor" and Oak Knoll. Good luck with that.

Please, by all means, shrink MPCSD so it's only in Menlo Park.


7 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 15, 2015 at 10:20 pm

Atherton's contribution to the Library JPA if Mr. DeGolia's proposal (which has been derided by some of the Menlo Park residents in this thread) is adopted: About $500,000 per year.

Menlo Park's contribution to the Library JPA, in the past, present and foreseeable future: Zero.

Menlo Park and Menlo Park residents are in no position to criticize Atherton's financial contributions to the JPA, considering Menlo Park contributes nothing.






2 people like this
Posted by Pam
a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2015 at 5:28 pm

It sounds like Atherton only wants to leave the San Mateo County Library System, one of many jurisdictions within the county of San Mateo, and not the Peninsula Library System. Many cities, like Menlo Park, have their own city library system and are still a part of the Peninsula Library System. If Atherton wants their own city system, I say go for it!


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

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