Wednesday: Atherton council looks at budget, neighborhood traffic


Atherton's City Council is scheduled to vote on a budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, set the rate for the upcoming year's parcel tax, and look at a neighborhood traffic management plan when it meets June 15 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at 94 Ashfield Road.

The budget totals just over $23 million, with a little more $12 million in general fund spending, $8.7 million toward capital improvements and $2.1 million in other special fund spending.

Also on the agenda Wednesday night is a proposal to make it legal to ride bikes on one of the walking paths through Holbrook-Palmer Park.

See the staff reports and agenda on the town's website.

A healthy budget is allowing Atherton to begin tackling the highest priorities of the millions of dollars of projects identified in three master plans approved in recent years: for the town's Holbrook-Palmer Park, bicycle and pedestrian network, and drainage system.

In the 2016-17 fiscal year budget the town has proposed $6.3 million in capital projects. Nearly half the funding will come from the town's parcel tax.

The proposed budget, which is scheduled to be approved by the City Council at its June 15 meeting, has close to $500,000 for bicycle and pedestrian plan projects, more than $1 million for drainage system projects and $235,000 for park projects.

Other budgeted capital improvement spending is for projects begun this fiscal year and not yet completed, including the Marsh Road culvert and the installation of a pedestrian-activated stoplight on El Camino Real at Almendral Avenue, and the design of the town's new civic center (much of which is paid for with donated money).

The budget also shows more than $1 million going to Atherton's streets and allocates $100,000 to explore putting up safer rail gates on the Watkins Avenue rail crossing, which would allow the town's new railroad quiet zone to be extended.

The tentative agenda also includes consideration of a neighborhood traffic management program.

Finance Director Robert Barron projects the town will end the coming fiscal year with a $5 million surplus, after putting $4.7 million into reserve funds. Projected revenues are $14.8 million, including $372,000 from the parcel tax. Property taxes are expected to be $9.2 million, up a projected 4.5 percent from the current year.

The town is also expected to receive a little more than $1 million in property tax revenue from so-called educational revenue augmentation funds (ERAF), money that the state years ago shifted from local governments to schools. Only San Mateo, Napa and Marin counties do not use all of their ERAF to support their schools, so some of the money is returned to local governments in those counties each year; the amount, though, has been decreasing for several years.

Because the town cannot count on the ERAF money always being available, the council has chosen for the past several years to spend it on one-time costs, allocating it after it is received.

Mr. Barron has recommended allocating this year's ERAF money to liabilities the town has in its workers' compensation and retirement funds, and to put a little over $400,000 into the capital improvements fund.

The budget shows a general fund beginning balance of a little over $12 million, revenues of $14.8 million and spending of slightly over $12 million, allowing $4.5 million to be transferred into the capital improvements fund.

Most of the town's departments show increases in their budgets, ranging from $1,185 for administration to $332,546 in the police department, where two new positions that were added mid-year will continue and two new police vehicles are scheduled for purchase.

The town's building and public works departments have decreases in their budgets - down nearly $50,000 in building and down over $71,000 in public works. Mr. Barron's report says the building department decrease is due to decreased costs of archiving building plans, while the public works decrease is because several major building projects were completed last year, including a new kitchen and roof in the Jennings Pavilion in Holbrook-Palmer Park.

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