News

Tonight: Deficit budget, M2 development caps before Menlo Park council

 

On Tuesday (June 16), will the Menlo Park City Council follow through on approving a budget that would have the city spending more than it takes in for the next three years?

The city's staff has proposed a $78.1 million budget for fiscal year 2015-16 that would spend $49.3 million from the general fund, but with estimated revenue of $48.1 million. The imbalance is mainly due to increased labor costs, as approximately 11 full-time employees would be hired to help process incoming projects.

At least three council members -- Rich Cline, Kirsten Keith and Peter Ohtaki -- expressed support for the budget during a public hearing on June 2.

Councilman Ray Mueller stated he wanted to build reserves and have a balanced budget instead of running a deficit, and Mayor Catherine Carlton said she wasn't comfortable with the proposed budget, but also understood the opportunity cost of having a backlog of projects.

M2

Also on the agenda -- setting the maximum potential development to be analyzed by the environmental impact study of the zoning update for the M2 industrial zone, which is part of an overall revision of the city's general plan.

Existing regulations don't allow residential or hotel uses without variances within the M2, something that needs to change as a number of housing projects are underway in the zone along with larger developments such as Menlo Gateway. After holding a series of community workshops, the city is considering creating two "live/work/play" areas in the zone, one along Jefferson Drive and the other along Willow Road.

The Planning Commission on June 8 voted 5-0-2, with Katherine Strehl absent and Drew Combs recused, to support the maximum potential development recommended by the General Plan Advisory Committee for analysis:

■ 2.1 million square feet of new nonresidential buildings.

■ 4,500 new housing units.

■ 5,500 new jobs.

■ 600 new hotel rooms.

The commissioners emphasized that this does not represent the actual amount of development that will occur.

"It's important to, dare I say, slightly inflate" the amount of development to be studied to ensure that mitigations are in place for the worst case scenario, said Chair John Onken. He compared it to taking out more money from an ATM than you plan to spend on a night out, just in case unexpected expenses pop up.

The complete agenda with associated staff reports is available online.

The June 16 council meeting starts with a closed session for labor negotiations at 6:30 p.m., followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at the Civic Center at 701 Laurel St. Catch the action live via the city's website.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 15, 2015 at 11:30 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

""It's important to, dare I say, slightly inflate" the amount of development to be studied to ensure that mitigations are in place for the worst case scenario, said Chair John Onken."

Hopefully the City of Menlo Park will properly fulfill its Lead Agency responsibility and "ensure that mitigations are in place for the worst case scenario" for ALL of the impacted agencies not just the City.


3 people like this
Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 15, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Deficit Spending is so much fun. It's like playing Santa Claus. Politicians just cannot help themselves and rationalizations are easy.


3 people like this
Posted by Good governance
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 15, 2015 at 7:13 pm

We'll get more done if we lay everyone off and hire only contractors.


Like this comment
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 15, 2015 at 9:00 pm

really? is a registered user.

'We'll get more done if we lay everyone off and hire only contractors.'

And we wonder why we're still in Iraq and Afganistan……...


1 person likes this
Posted by Full picture?
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 16, 2015 at 7:00 am

So we are to believe the only development ahead will come in belle haven? Who is smoking what?

Almanac - get your headlines more accurate. The changes will greatly INCREASE development in the m-2 area, not cap it. The changes would allow an expected 4,500 more housing units, 2.1 million square feet of nonresidential (3.85 million more square feet than already approved or built). This is irresponsible reporting.


6 people like this
Posted by concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 16, 2015 at 8:21 am

Let's bet that some of the impacted agencies will be left out, Fire, Police, Cal-Trans ! How many cities have come
back from 3 years of deficient spending and successfully survived ? Who is going to finance the deficients for 3
years running ? Are employees going to take pay cuts ? Are city services going to greatly reduced ? Ray and Catherine
are on the right track, the other 3 not so much !


1 person likes this
Posted by MP Employee
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 16, 2015 at 8:04 pm

The City Council will not have to worry about firing extra employees in the future if Mueller maintains this course. The culture in Menlo Park, created by this City Council, is what's causing the 25% turnover of staff.


7 people like this
Posted by Wake up Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jun 16, 2015 at 8:08 pm

Anyone ever notice how many times our City Manager Alex McIntyre is seeing at city meetings standing outside the city council chambers or in the back of a room chatting it up with Tim Tosta, the attorney for developers, Bohannon, Greenheart, Facebook, Google? Mr. Tosta is a regular at council meetings and especially at the M-2 community meetings. His involvement in city affairs on behalf of his clients needs attention. Menlo Park is returning to the old days of the '50s and '60s. The "back room" is a busy room these days.

We can thank Tim Tosta for the City Manager's push to hire more full time employees. Tosta's clients need a city fat with Planners so their projects can get underway. Build, hire, spend, build more. The Menlo Park Treadmill.


Like this comment
Posted by downsize
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 16, 2015 at 10:39 pm

Mueller sounds like he won't vote for a balanced budget unless it includes no new hires. Alex is "fortunate" to be the only city manager on the Peninsula to his council and resident (just one speaker tonight) ask him to lay employee off while surrounding cities are hiring.

STAFF: We are maxed out, we need planners and engineers.

COUNCIL: Have you considered laying people off?


10 people like this
Posted by sounds like?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 16, 2015 at 11:15 pm

Mueller told McIntyre tonight he wasn't going to tell him how to balance the budget, that it was the City Manager's job to make the recommendation.


4 people like this
Posted by Waking up
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 16, 2015 at 11:32 pm

Further to Wake Up's comments, Tosta's endorsement of Joanne Brion is on the front page of her website. She's often hired by Menlo Park developers to provide estimates of the benefits their projects will bring to the city, and her analyses are ridiculously inflated.

Tosta is also responsible for at least two planning commissioners being hired by local tech companies. I'm sure there's no quid pro quo there -- Tosta was just trying to be helpful.


3 people like this
Posted by full picture?
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 18, 2015 at 7:59 am

Kudos to the Council for rejecting a deficit budget.

There are many ways the City can get to a balanced budget, possibly even a surplus (remember there still is a UUT in place). Levers include changing fees (more revenue to offset more costs = a no-brainer), outsourcing some services, flattening the organization so there aren't so many layers of management and overhead and more people doing real work, not granting huge raises (oh right, that's going to be hard after the Council granted the City Manager a huge raise).


1 person likes this
Posted by Over and over
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 10:47 am

And more work could be done with existing staff if projects were implemented correctly the first time rather than all the re-dos which are required when they get it wrong.


Like this comment
Posted by Just to be clear
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 19, 2015 at 2:13 pm

@full_picture writes, "the Council granted the City Manager a huge raise..."

Alex agreed to start working for under $200K, which is a far cry from what other city managers are making. His raise worked out to 3% per year.

Only two or three people showed up to complain about his contract, which they have every right to do, but this is not such a crisis for a city with over 30 thousand people.


8 people like this
Posted by full picture?
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 20, 2015 at 10:29 am

How disappointing that the city manager conveys that his only choice to get to a balanced budget is to slow down development.
I read Stu Soffer's column where he says that all the costs of staff supporting development can be recouped through development fees. What a great idea! Staff and related expenses go up, fee income goes up. Staff and related expenses go down, fee income goes down. What a concept.

The city council told the city manager to come back with a balanced budget. There are many ways to do that while continuing with improvement projects and new development. If McIntyre cannot, then he should be let go for cause.


Like this comment
Posted by one
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 21, 2015 at 3:29 pm

One could argue that the city manager tried to trick the city council into approving this budget by playing on their desires to move Menlo Park forward. One could also argue that the city manager tried to trick the community by hiring communication consultants to work on web content and logos. One could argue this shows a pattern of tricks and trickery.

One did argue that tentatively removing CIP projects to balance the budget is a trick because the projects will return even if mid-year budget projections cannot support them. The argument here is that specific direction given to staff, on video and voted on by the council, will be ignored. We will see if one decides to carry on with this argument.


3 people like this
Posted by balance
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 21, 2015 at 6:16 pm

The City manager needs to scale back on hiring permanent staff - use consultant or temps since these positions will not be needed in 3-5 years once all of the development projects are completed, And the additional cost should be billed to the developers, who are profiting greatly in Menlo Park. Meanwhile, the City is hiring 3 more full time managers in Community Service which should be eliminated.Way too many levels of management for a small department that should be capable of managing itself with 2 directors.
if our city manager can't figure out how to balance a budget get the job done with his current staff or temps, then it's time to find someone else who can.


Like this comment
Posted by Complicated
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 22, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Generally, the city manager presents a budget the council asks for. This year is a bit more complicated because the city needs to hire senior planners and engineers. This is not like going to Costco for supplies.

The city needs to attract qualified individuals away from their current employers. Menlo Park has been on the wrong side of this ecosystem, hiring temps, training them, and then watching them get hired away to work for other cities.


Like this comment
Posted by balance
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 22, 2015 at 3:47 pm

It's okay if they get hired away because we don't need them for very long. The positions by definition are temporary. They are not needed for the long term, and hiring them with full time benefits is what's going to put the City in the red for the long term. Why offer up full time benefits, pensions etc to positions that are only needed for 3-5 years. Offer up a competitive salary to the consultants or temps to attract quality people. Our City Manager would be a fool to bring on permanent staff for positions that are only required for a few years.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 22, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Don't hire permanent staff, temps or individual consultants - sign a binding contract with a firm to provide these services with a big penalty clause if they default.


1 person likes this
Posted by balance
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 22, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Agreed, Peter. That type of plan would make way more sense than creating all the new positions that the City will not be able to eliminate. Such a simple solution and an easy way to balance the budget and keep pension costs under control. Let's hope the Council doesn't back down or accept lame excuse from the City Manager that it's not possible.


2 people like this
Posted by Watching
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2015 at 10:13 pm

MP Finance Department's Staff Report (Budget revisions) for 6/23 special city council meeting:

Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by full picture?
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 23, 2015 at 9:06 am

In this revised budget, the city manager cuts services to our community and postpones public works projects, all to serve developers without charging them the fees required to process their projects. No mention by either the council or the city manager of revisiting the development fee structure. As Stu Soffer pointed out, the staff (or contractor) costs of processing development applications can be fully recouped. Instead, the city is essentially subsidizing developers while reducing support for residents. Something is wrong with this picture


2 people like this
Posted by balance
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:21 pm

That revised budget is a disgrace and demonstrates why the City Council should have never renewed McIntyre's contract. Slashing projects to serve the residents and neglecting to eliminate the unnecessary full time positions he proposed is a disservice to our community. As the Council would say, he's done noting "illegal" - so I guess we'll all just have to accept this "new" budget. I'm sure it makes the developers happy and that seems to be all that the Council and the Manager care about.


Like this comment
Posted by trick or treat
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Mueller already tried to make the argument that McIntyre and Ohtaki want to use tricks to balance the budget. How nice it would be if this group could learn to work together, and treat everyone with respect.


16 people like this
Posted by Ding Dong
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 23, 2015 at 2:10 pm

@trickortreat, give it a break already. Ray apologized for his word choice during the meeting and he and Peter laughed about it.
This group works extremely well together.

On June 3rd, Kirsten Keith, Peter Ohtaki and Rich Cline all told McIntyre they would adopt the deficit budget McIntyre proposed. Ray objected and has been pushing hard for a transparent balanced budget since then. I appreciate his candor and principles.
The guy deserves a congratulations not a snarky attack.


Like this comment
Posted by roundabout
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 23, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Council unanimously approved the balanced budget Peter Ohtaki proposed two meetings ago, but with fully funded sidewalks on Santa Cruz. Thanks for your leadership Peter Ohtaki.


11 people like this
Posted by Misinformation
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jun 23, 2015 at 9:39 pm

Let the spin with misinformation begin @roundabout. The Council did not pass what Ohtaki proposed two meetings (June 2nd.)

From the very article above:
"On Tuesday (June 16), will the Menlo Park City Council follow through on approving a budget that would have the city spending more than it takes in for the next three years?

The city's staff has proposed a $78.1 million budget for fiscal year 2015-16 that would spend $49.3 million from the general fund, but with estimated revenue of $48.1 million. The imbalance is mainly due to increased labor costs, as approximately 11 full-time employees would be hired to help process incoming projects.

At least three council members -- Rich Cline, Kirsten Keith and Peter Ohtaki -- expressed support for the budget during a public hearing on June 2.

Councilman Ray Mueller stated he wanted to build reserves and have a balanced budget instead of running a deficit, and Mayor Catherine Carlton said she wasn't comfortable with the proposed budget, but also understood the opportunity cost of having a backlog of projects."

Ohtaki, Keith and Cline all supported passing a deficit budget.




Like this comment
Posted by roundabout
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 23, 2015 at 10:28 pm

Sorry, that was just a quote from tonight's meeting. It may have been the suggestion Ohtaki made at the last meeting that Mueller called a trick.

It's better that we have a 5-0 vote tonight instead of a 3-2 vote last week, even if we end up with the identical budget.


7 people like this
Posted by Watcher
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jun 23, 2015 at 10:50 pm

I watched the meeting.

Kirsten Keith tried to get Peter Ohtaki to say it was the same idea, but Peter admitted what the Council passed tonight was different because it was one time monies applied to a one time project. Rather than make general transfer, the Council prefunded the sideawalks on Santa Cruz Avenue. Peter's exact words were the it was an improvement to what he had suggested in the past.

As a side note I agree with Mueller about the general transfer. That's a bad idea.






Like this comment
Posted by transcript
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 24, 2015 at 11:51 am

@watcher, Ohtaki used the word "improved" not "different" and he did agree.

Keith: Peter, just going back, this is what you were suggesting two meetings ago?

Ohtaki: Yes [ much laughter ]

Ohtaki: But, having said that, I actually like that it's been improved dramatically because it's actually tied to accelerating the... or bringing the Santa Cruz sidewalk project into this year which makes me excited.

Keith: Well I just wanted to say thank you for suggesting this two meetings ago, and thank you to staff for following up and working on this and coming up with that option three.

Mueller: I don't want to get into a discussion on this.


8 people like this
Posted by Arbitrator
a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Curious to settle this important mystery I watched the tape myself.

@transcript like @roundabout you seemed determined to spin this for some reason.

Why did you leave out everything Councilmember Mueller said and what Councilmember Ohtaki said after Councilmember Mueller?

The full transcript is below:


Keith: Peter, just going back, this is what you were suggesting two meetings ago?

Ohtaki: Yes [ much laughter ]

Ohtaki: But, having said that, I actually like that it's been improved dramatically because it's actually tied to accelerating the... or bringing the Santa Cruz sidewalk project into this year which makes me excited.

Keith: Well I just wanted to say thank you for suggesting this two meetings ago, and thank you to staff for following up and working on this and coming up with that option three.

Mueller: I don't want to get into a discussion on this. The ERAF transfer was slightly different two meetings ago.

Ohtaki: Yes the other thing it's tying a one time to a one time.

Mueller: This is tying a one time to one time.




Like this comment
Posted by oldtimer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 24, 2015 at 6:31 pm

What should be said here is this Council is pathetic in the highest degree.

Here we have the City Manager, who should have been fired for his outrageous behavior on Measure M, followed by his attempt

at cover up of his actions.

Now all 5 council members refuse to buck his hiring of more FTE's, whose sole purpose is to fast track as many development

projects as possible. As McIntyre bloats up his bureaucracy, looking no doubt to move to bigger and bigger organizations,

the responsibility for his actions rest fully upon this council, who allowed all of this to take place.

The vast majority of MP voters will at sometime in the future awaken (just has happened in Palo Alto recently), and kick

these zombie council persons off of council. By then MP will be transformed into mirror images of Cities like, Sunnyvale,

Redwood City etc.


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

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