News

Atherton moves toward study of fire district funding

Issue will come back to council in October

Atherton's City Council has agreed to move toward a study of how much Atherton property owners pay for services provided to them by the Menlo Park Fire Protection District and how much those services cost the district.

At the conclusion of a Wednesday, Sept. 7, study session, council members asked City Manager George Rodericks to come back to them in October with a description of what the town would want a consultant to do. In the meantime, two council members, Cary Wiest and Mike Lempres, will meet with fire district officials to discuss the issue.

Mayor Elizabeth Lewis missed the meeting, and no one from the fire district was in attendance.

All the council members and Mr. Rodericks said they believe Atherton receives great service from the fire district.

"The fire district is providing us with exceptional service," said council member Bill Widmer. However, he said, the town has been unable to get answers to some of its questions about the fire district's costs of providing services to the town and the amount of revenue it receives from the town.

"I have lots of questions with regards to the services and the costs," Mr. Widmer said. "How the money is being spent? Is it being spent in the right manner and on the right things?" he asked.

Councilman Wiest, who is the council's liaison to the fire district, said he was "extremely disappointed ... that not one member of the fire district chose to be in attendance today." District officials said they all had previous obligations at the time of the meeting, Mr. Rodericks said.

Mr. Wiest said he was also disappointed with some of the feedback from district officials after Atherton announced it was going to hold the study session. "I'm disappointed with all the mud-slinging that has occurred," he said. "It's difficult to determine what's true and what's not – there's so much crap on the wall."

"The cost for service is a simple question and it's something we've brought up with the fire service for years," Mr. Wiest said. "To me, it's a pretty simple request."

"I don't understand, if there aren't any issues, why there's a reluctance by district to simply sit down and provide the information," he said.

Councilman Rick DeGolia said that tax records show Atherton properties have an assessed valuation of $8.06 billion, a little more than 32 percent of the fire district's entire $25.03 billion assessed valuation. But Atherton residents are just 7.6 percent of the total population in the fire district, which includes Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and some adjacent unincorporated areas, as well as Atherton.

The fire district provides fire, emergency response and emergency medical services to those areas.

Like several of the other council members, Mr. DeGolia said that he felt that some of the comments made by fire district officials were "just extremely immature and a direct attack on the council."

"I feel personally insulted," he added.

Fire board member Peter Carpenter had accused the town of looking at the fire district's finances as a way to try to get money to pay for its new civic center. He wrote on the Almanac's Town Square forum that Atherton's city manager had decided the fire district "is where the money we need is and they won't just give it to us so let's see if we can intimidate them with a public hearing and then blackmail them into 'sharing their tax revenue with the Town.'"

Mr. DeGolia said there is no issue that the council has been more responsible about than the management of the town's fiscal affairs. "We look at every dollar," he said.

The staff report on the issue from Mr. Rodericks says that in 2015, based on the assessed valuation of properties in Atherton, the fire district received $4.5 million more in property tax revenues from Atherton landowners than the town did: $13.8 million for the fire district versus $9.3 million for the town.

At the meeting Mr. Rodericks said the fire district believes that number, based on studies it has had conducted, should be $11.8 million, a figure "we're seeking to verify," he said.

His report says that, according to the county assessor's office, of every property tax dollar paid by Atherton landowners, the fire district receives slightly less than 16 cents while the town receives slightly less than 11 cents.

Atherton property owners also pay a parcel tax for town services.

The funding levels are a legacy of Proposition 13, passed by California voters in 1978. The following year the state Legislature set the property tax allocations for various government entities at the percentage they had received the year before.

Mr. Rodericks report said that if consultants find the cost to provide fire services to the town is considerably less than the amount of property tax revenue collected by the fire district, the town could "discuss alternative fire service models which could include, but not be limited to, detachment from the Fire District."

Council members said that any such discussion would have to wait until after a study came back with the financial information they want.

"It's not an issue of trying to detach from the fire department. I have zero interest in detaching from the fire department," Mr. DeGolia said.

Service is also not an issue, he said. "The issue is, where are our tax dollars going?" he said.

The staff report suggests the town could ask the fire district to share tax revenue, offer additional services or offer more "fire-related infrastructure."

The town had earlier asked the fire district if it might be willing to help pay for an emergency operations center or other facilities that could be used by the district in the civic center now being designed, but the fire district declined to participate.

"I think it's a good idea to gather information," said Councilman Lempres. "I think it's very important that fire district and the town of Atherton are operating on the same facts. And then we can have a conversation about what the next steps are."

In the years since the model for allocating property tax money was set up, the world has changed, he said. "It's well past time that we look at that formula and say: Is that still right? Is that a fair and equitable formula we should be using?"

The town should "not be in any way apologetic for asking these questions," Mr. Lempres said.

The staff report says that a consultant could be hired by the end of the year and return with a report by summer 2017. The estimated cost of the study is $35,000 to $50,000.

Comments

10 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 9, 2016 at 12:34 pm

Yes, we'd rather spend money on a study than talk to the FD -- way to be productive and effective!


4 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 9, 2016 at 2:04 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Their way or the highway.


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 9, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

""extremely disappointed ... that not one member of the fire district chose to be in attendance today." "

The Town Council did NOT invite the Fire Board to participate.

The published agenda did NOT provide for Fire District participation in the planned discussion.

The Town Manager had received prior to this meeting all of the information needed to determine how much Atherton residents pay in property taxes to the Fire District and to determine how much the Fire District spends serving the residents of Atherton ( Clues - The Fire District provides exactly the same level of service to every resident of the District and Atherton residents comprise about 8% of the District's population and hence about 8% of the Districts expenditures.)

The Town Council, wisely, has decided that they do not want to detach from the Fire District - an option suggested by the Town Manager " Discuss alternative fire service models which could include, but not be limited to, detachment from the Fire District... ".

The Town Council, wisely, has decided not to seek a rebate from the Fire District which would have had to come from reducing services levels to East Palo Alto and Menlo Park - an option again suggested by the Town Manager "1) Sit down with the Fire District to discuss the findings and discuss ways to address fiscal equity issues in Atherton (property tax revenue sharing agreements,..".

The Town Council has no legal authority over the Fire District and the Town Council is not the designate representative of the Fire District's residents - that is solely the elected Fire Board's responsibility.

So no detachment, no revenue sharing, no legal authority and they already have all the data they need to answer their questions yet they still want to hire a consultant. To do what?


9 people like this
Posted by Public Safety Review
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2016 at 4:03 pm

The council if looking for ways to save $$$$$$, should look into something they can control and that is their police agency. I'm sure either Menlo Park or San Mateo Sheriff can help them with their monetary issues. I believe over 70 per cent of their budget involves their police department. I don't think that's on the table? If not on the table, what is wrong with the council. It appears the fire district is pretty open to public disclosure issues? Looking at their web site, they disclose everything.??? As Carpetner suggested, looks like their pretty open.


80 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 9, 2016 at 5:27 pm

"What we've got here is failure to communicate"
-- Captain from "Cool Hand Luke"

It seems to me a lot more could get resolved if Atherton and the fire board talked to each other, rather than talked at each other through the press.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 9, 2016 at 5:30 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire Board has a planned joint meeting last Spring with the Town Council but the Town Council cancelled the meeting because they were too busy.


11 people like this
Posted by Curious observer
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 9, 2016 at 5:31 pm

Perhaps RWC or Woodside could offer similar savings on fire costs also.


14 people like this
Posted by Curious observer
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 9, 2016 at 5:54 pm

How is it that the Fire board has not censured their board member from his incessant postings on this site? Is it really ok with them that he continues to spout forth the fire boards opinion on our councils request for info from the FD alone without their approval? He says he speaks as a resident, but that cannot be done with his position on this particular matter. It's like an NFL commissioner speaking on a football matter by taking a side but calling himself a fan. Sorry it doesn't work. He's gasoline on a spark.

I'll tell you this, everything I read on this blog from that board member comes right from the mouth of the fire board, not from a resident. Not on this subject. It's a very unprofessional way to run a district. Like a 3rd grade classroom. The chair needs to get a handle on this guy before things get worse. Answer athertons questions now and let's move on. Quit being so darn defensive. Atherton pays X is not in the report. Service for Atherton proper costs Y not in the report. The difference is Z not in the reports. Discussion. Over. Athertons not going anywhere. Just do it and quit speculating. Stop the argument. Take the high road. Giddy up go!


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 9, 2016 at 6:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Atherton pays X is not in the report."
Wrong
"Service for Atherton proper costs Y not in the report."
Wrong
" The difference is Z not in the reports."
Wrong

Please take the time to read the financial information which is on the District's web site, which I have posted repeatedly and which have been provided to the Town.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 8, 2016 at 1:59 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From: "Carpenter, Peter"
Subject: Information that seems not to have been given to the Town Council
Date: September 8, 2016 at 1:36:32 PM PDT

Dear Atherton Town Council,

In reviewing the record of your meeting yesterday it appears that a great deal of information which had been previously provided to the Town Manager and the Council Liaison to the Fire Board somehow did not reach the entire Council.

I include that information here:

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link


These four document provide all the information that is needed to answer your two questions -
1- How much revenue does the Fire District receive from Atherton property owners and
2 -Given the Fire District’s policy of providing exactly the same level of service to every resident of the Fire District how much of the Fire District’s budget is “spent” delivering services to the residents of Atherton which is about 8% of the total District population.

In my opinion there is no need for the Town to hire a consultant to find this information for you.

I have no idea why these documents have been withheld from you but please let me know if you require additional information and I will provide it directly to you to ensure that it is not lost enroute.

Peter



6 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 9, 2016 at 6:06 pm

@Curious observer - I don't believe that Peter Carpenter, to whom you allude, is speaking on behalf the the FD. It is no different that a member of Congress or state legislature voicing an opinion. That person wouldn't be speaking on behalf of his/her elected body.

You may not like that he is vocal, but I'm sure there a plenty of people who voice their opinion that you don't agree with or appreciate. Conversely, I'm sure there are those with whom you agree as well.

As for the topic at hand - if the Town has communicated with the FD on this matter, great. It doesn't seem as if it has. My suggestion is the two agencies should at least talk before spending money on a study.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 9, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Curious - I document each of the statements that I post.

It would be helpful to having "a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion" if you and others who hold different opinions would do the same rather than just attacking the messenger.


10 people like this
Posted by Curious observer
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 9, 2016 at 6:23 pm

Bob, the information the fire board member continually passes along in this blog is official fire board material. Hence, he represents the entire fire board on this subject.. I cannot help but believe he speaks for all of the board when he speaks here. He's got to be smart enough to know this. Fire board member Carpenter, I have a simple question for you. Please give me the 3 numbers for X, Y and Z from my post above and where you found them in these regurgitated reports and I will thank you, forward them to the Atherton finance guys or the Council and go away. How about saving everybody 50k? Money where your mouth is?


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 9, 2016 at 6:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Revenue received from Atherton TRA's $10.8 Million from Web Link

Total MPFPD Expenses $37 Million from
Web Link

Total District population = 90,000 +
Atherton population + 7,000 -

Atherton population = 8% of District

8% of $37 Million = $2.88 Million

$10.8 - 2.9 = $7.9 Million

Set, Point and Match


6 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 9, 2016 at 6:35 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Curious:

it's also PUBLIC RECORD. What's so hard to understand about that. Stop attacking the messenger and look at the stupidity of Atherton's Town Manager.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 9, 2016 at 6:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

District population served data from:
Web Link

Atherton population from:
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 9, 2016 at 7:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Just to confirm what I have always stated - the Town HAD this information:

From: George Rodericks <grodericks@ci.atherton.ca.us>
Subject: Almanac Article Blog
Date: September 9, 2016 at 7:04:11 PM PDT
To: Harold Schapelhouman
Chief,

See link below to Almanac Article Blog.

Web Link

"Revenue received from Atherton TRA's $10.8 Million from Web Link

Total MPFPD Expenses $37 Million from
Web Link

Total District population = 90,000 +
Atherton population + 7,000 -

Atherton population = 8% of District

8% of $37 Million = $2.88 Million

$10.8 - 2.9 = $7.9 Million"


Just to be clear, Board Member Carpenter responded with information we already knew and could easily extrapolate as we have had this information for some time.


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 9, 2016 at 7:11 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Just to be clear, Board Member Carpenter responded with information we already knew and could easily extrapolate as we have had this information for some time."

Then why didn't they?

duh!


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 9, 2016 at 7:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Wow !!

" George Rodericks <grodericks@ci.atherton.ca.us> wrote:

Board Member Carpenter,

Thank you for posting at least a portion of my email to your Fire Chief that you received as a courtesy copy to your Board Member email address to the Almanac article blog. I wish you would have posted it in its entirety. "

My response:

George,
Feel free to post whatever you wish - I will not carry your water for you.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 9, 2016 at 7:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From: Peter Carpenter
Subject: Fwd: Almanac Article Blog
Date: September 9, 2016 at 7:22:22 PM PDT
To: Cary Wiest <Cwiest4council@gmail.com>, Elizabeth Lewis - Council <elewis@ci.atherton.ca.us>, William Widmer <billwidmer4atherton@gmail.com>, Rick DeGolia <rick@rickdegolia.com>, Mike Lempres <Lempres@gmail.com>
Cc: Barbara Wood <bwood@almanacnews.com>, jnowell@padailypost.com, Kevin Kelly <kkelly@bayareanewsgroup.com>

Dear Town Council,
How can you explain that our Town Manager had this critical Fire District information for some time and evidently failed to provide it to the Council? "information we already knew and could easily extrapolate as we have had this information for some time. “

Is this entire drama simply a setup orchestrated by the Town Manager?

Why?

Peter
Atherton Resident


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 9, 2016 at 7:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is a great example of a "public servant" who does not understand that any communication to an elected official is in the public record - as it should be:

"Board Member Carpenter,

I certainly understand. Unfortunately, I try not engage in article blog comments except to clarify information when the comments seem to go awry. It’s more of a public dialog forum. When I do engage, I send the email to the press provider directly and allow them to post if they so desire. Their call. I’ve sent the email to the Almanac and they can add it if they choose.

Since the email was sent to your Board email I was surprised that you posted it at all let alone excerpts.

Regards,

George"
********
And this is from the Town Manager who proclaims transparency.

This whole exercise between the Town and the Fire District has been a charade set up by the Town Manager and Council Member Wiest in a failed attempt to extort money and or embarrass the Fire District.

The more the facts come out the more the Town's reputation and integrity will suffer.


6 people like this
Posted by Public Safety Answers
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 9, 2016 at 10:29 pm

Public Safety Review asks why the Atherton council has not explored outsourcing the police department to save money.

The answer is the police union in Atherton has donated funds to support candidates now on the council for the tacit reason that this would specifically not be done.

One of these council members is Cary Wiest, who is according to Carpenter now leading the charge to try to get money from the fire district.

Another is the mayor, Elizabeth Lewis.

Ask them about it and they'll point to a poorly designed survey from years ago that claimed 97% satisfaction, and that only a few isolated residents have had bad things to say about the police department.

But, I'm aware of ZERO residents who have had any problems with the fire district.

* * * * *

After reading all of the above, it's time for Rodericks to go.


13 people like this
Posted by Barbara Wood
Almanac staff writer
on Sep 10, 2016 at 5:52 am

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

Just for clarification - Here is the entire text of the email that a portion of is quoted above. It was sent by George Rodericks to the fire district chief and the fire board, as well as to several media representatives. The email is a public record and was sent at 7:04 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10:

Chief,

See link below to Almanac Article Blog.

Web Link

"Revenue received from Atherton TRA's $10.8 Million from Web Link

Total MPFPD Expenses $37 Million from
Web Link

Total District population = 90,000 +
Atherton population + 7,000 -

Atherton population = 8% of District

8% of $37 Million = $2.88 Million

$10.8 - 2.9 = $7.9 Million"


Just to be clear, Board Member Carpenter responded with information we already knew and could easily extrapolate as we have had this information for some time. However, the City Council is seeking more detail. Something the District has said over and over again that they don’t have at the level of granularity that the Council is seeking. Generalizing and extrapolating from percentages does not provide an accurate representation of services provided to the Town as I believe that we get a lot more service and a number of special services that tick that number up more than the basic extrapolation provides. That’s something we need to talk about. I think that the study will not only help answer the Town’s questions, but help the District in identification of costs by jurisdictional boundary.

What the Council wants is to get to the details, meet with the Fire District, jointly come to an agreement of facts, and have a conversation about it.

Board Member Carpenter’s now public representation in the press could make things worse for a conversation - it’s incorrect and does not reflect with any specificity what the true cost of fire services are for the Town of Atherton - and he is stating them as fact. As you know, you advised that there were errors in the $10.8 million property tax number and you corrected it to $11.8 million. Further, it is based on 37 TRAs and the Town’s own property tax consultant reflects 39 TRAs. That’s a relatively easy and minor issue to correctly re-calculate and verify.

But Board Member Carpenter is simply extrapolating the cost based on 8% of the service level, too simplistic. As I said in my earlier email, I would argue that we get a lot more service and a number of special services that tick that number up more than the basic amount. It’s easy to calculate the generalized information - 8% of $37 million is $2.96 million (I think your most recent budget is $41 million). 8% of that is $3.28 million. $3.28 million from $11.8 million is $8.52 million. But generalized information is not what we are looking for - we are looking for more specificity and are hoping that a study will help get us there since the has advised that they do not calculate data that way.

Whatever the result, it’s something we should talk about and either accept or work to address in one way or another. As you know I sent an email Thursday morning to attempt to setup some times for a subcommittee to meet to begin this conversation.

Regards,

George

George Rodericks
City Manager
Town of Atherton
91 Ashfield Road
Atherton, CA 94027
(650) 752-0504 - Office
grodericks@ci.atherton.ca.us


11 people like this
Posted by Wait Wait!!!
a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2016 at 7:08 am

Wait wait! Atherton taxpayers are paying 300% (that's 300% not 30%) more for fire services than the cost of those services and a Fire Board Member's response when the City Council and Town Manager want to talk about it is to call their integrity into question and respond neener neener neener there's nothing you can do about it!

Who's REALLY stealing the money here????


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 10, 2016 at 8:06 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The property tax allocations were set by Prop 13 and Prop 8 and neither the Fire District or the Town Council can change the California Constitution.

Atherton is a wealthy Town that pays more for and uses less of things like fire services, schools, highways, state parks and national defense than do its neighboring communities because of the structure of our tax systems.


2 people like this
Posted by Public Safety Answers
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 10, 2016 at 10:51 am

"Atherton is a wealthy Town that pays more for and uses less of things like fire services, schools, highways, state parks and national defense than do its neighboring communities because of the structure of our tax systems."

But we get SO much in return, how can we complain?

Atherton is also a wealthy town that pays more for and uses less of things like its own police department, but it's not because of the structure of our tax systems. It's simply political cronyism, special favors, and the bullying and buying of elections.




1 person likes this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 10, 2016 at 3:20 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Interesting that people like to argue just to argue because they have nothing else to do. Sad day.


15 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 10, 2016 at 5:06 pm

@Public Safety Answers

The last parcel tax to maintain public safety spending levels passed with about 75% of the vote. Nobody wrote any arguments against it in the voter guide.

Wiest and Lewis ran unopposed this year. If people are unhappy with their leadership, I would have expected some opposition.


3 people like this
Posted by Public Safety Answers
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 11, 2016 at 9:14 am

Paraphrasing Apple: Don't you [dare] question the expenditures on the police department. 75% of residents support it, and the council candidates who have pledged fealty to the police department ran unopposed.

You're making my point for me. If the lack of large public opposition to an organization is grounds for not examining its cost-effectiveness, the fire district has higher marks in this area than the Atherton police department. For example, there have not been any public controversies about the fire district that I'm aware of.

You need to adopt a consistent logic in dealing with both situations. Otherwise it appears as politics instead of prudent policy making.

Regarding the lack of opposition to Lewis and Wiest, please do recall that the last council member who questioned the police department was hounded and threatened off the council.


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2016 at 9:24 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As a long time Atherton resident I am very willing to stipulate that:

1 - We have a great Police Department under the leadership of Ed Flint and Joe Wade,

2 - We have a great Fire District under the leadership of Harold Schapelhouman and Don Long,

3 - We have a Town Council that is doing quite well in overseeing those matters for which the Town is responsible.


6 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 11, 2016 at 1:11 pm

@Public Safety Answers

By all means, question police expenditures. I was pointing out there aren't many people who share your perspective as I see a lack of visible opposition.

Back in 1999 and 2000, parcel taxes were defeated because there were many people questioning the spending. They provided specific examples of mismanagement, which is how they won.

Current council members do question the police department and they do it in a professional manner. The past council member you're referring to did it in a divisive and toxic manner. And it wasn't Atherton city staff that hounded her out. By that time, the town manager, police chief, etc. had left. It was the voters that got tired of her antics.


4 people like this
Posted by Public Safety Answers
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 11, 2016 at 4:36 pm

"By all means, question police expenditures. I was pointing out there aren't many people who share your perspective as I see a lack of visible opposition."

I see the same lack of visible opposition to fire district expenditures. As Peter Carpenter pointed out, like it or not, we have a lot more control over police expenditures than fire expenditures.

"And it wasn't Atherton city staff that hounded her out. By that time, the town manager, police chief, etc. had left."

Actually, the correct facts are the past police chief was removed by the former town manager after an investigatory report confirmed the misconduct that you feel she questioned in a "divisive and toxic manner". The report was never made public, which is not in the interests of good transparency.


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2016 at 5:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I see the same lack of visible opposition to fire district expenditures."

In fact in the Nov 2015 election the voters approved by 79% Measure Y to increase the Fire District's Gann Tax limit.

"Shall the appropriations limit applicable to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, which is currently set at $40,000,000 and set to expire on June 30, 2016, be reauthorized for four years at a level of $50,000,000 beginning on July 1, 2016?"


In comparison Atherton's last parcel tax passed with only 73% approval.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2016 at 6:47 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And, in comparison to the the Fire District's Measure Y receiving more than 79% approval, in the lasted contested Town Council election no candidate received more than 31% of the vote.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2016 at 7:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And in the last Fire Board election 55% of the voters in Atherton voted for me to represent them on the Fire Board vs the last contested Town Council election where no candidate received more than 31% of the vote.


4 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 11, 2016 at 9:40 pm

@Public Safety Answers

There is no opposition to fire district expenditures. The question is where the fire department spends its money on Atherton. The town is looking for a more detailed understanding of that part. If you'd like a more detailed understanding of the police budget, the town manager or a council member can help if you reach out.

Which past police chief are you referring to? Is it Brennan, Nielsen, or Guerra? The police chief position was such a revolving door at that time. I don't who you are referring to. IIRC, those were the only chiefs that left during this particular council member's tenure.


5 people like this
Posted by Public Safety Answers
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 11, 2016 at 10:25 pm

Apple, I'd prefer not to mention names because the individual in question was actually a nice person. He did not commit misconduct per say, but tolerated it. The problem is when people have been working together for 20 years in a close, tight-knit group, it's really difficult to hold feet to fires when one of them is elevated to the chief. That's why bringing in an outside chief in Ed Flint was really the right move for Atherton.

I only brought this up because of your allusions to divisiveness and toxicity. It's not divisive or toxic when you're right, and she was, at least about this.

To bring this back around to the topic at hand, yes, I believe Atherton overpays for police services and could get great service for less money (no parcel tax) from the San Mateo sheriff. Is it keeping me up at night? No. As long as the department is managed properly (from an external chief like Flint, not a string of internal promotions) I can live with it. I just think it's really hypocritical for the people who have said turn a blind eye to the extra costs are now "going after" the fire district as a pretext to try to pay for a town center that was not planned properly. The service provided by the firemen is as or more important because they also do emergency medical.


6 people like this
Posted by Mediator
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 12, 2016 at 6:45 am

It seems to me that this problem can be solved if the parties can simply sit down and talk to one another, such as

1) The Atherton Mayor Elizabeth Lewis meets with and talks to the Fire District Board President, Rob Silano, and/or

2) The Atherton City Manager, George Rodericks meets with and talks to the Fire District Fire Chief, Harold Schapelhouman, and/or

3) The Atherton Finance Director meets with and talks to the Fire District Finance Director, and/or

4) There is a joint meeting between the Atherton Town Council and the Fire District Board of Directors.

All this name calling and blaming is getting us no where fast. A much more productive way to work things out is in a civil, clear headed, fair manner with the intent of seeking a mutually satisfying solution. Spending $35,000 to $50,000 of taxpayers money is a cop out. Don't do it. Not all problems are solved with a Consultant's Report.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 12, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

 MENLO PARK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT STAFF REPORT
To: Finance Committee Meeting Date: September 13, 2016 From: Administrative Services Prepared By: Kathleen Jackson
ITEM: REVIEW OF MENLO PARK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT HISTORICAL
EDUCATION REVENUE AUGMENTATION FUND (ERAF) SHIFT AND REBATE
RECOMMENDATION
It is recommended that the Finance Committee accepts the report as presented.
BACKGROUND
In 1992, the State of California found itself in a serious deficit position. To meet its obligations to fund education at specified levels under Proposition 98, the state enacted legislation that shifted partial financial responsibility for funding education to local government (cities, counties and special districts). The state did this by instructing county auditors to shift the allocation of local property tax revenues from local government to “educational revenue augmentation funds” (ERAFs), directing that specified amounts of city, county and special district property taxes be deposited into these funds to support schools.
The state has provided some funding to local governments that it considers mitigation of ERAF. In 1993, California voters approved Proposition 172, which provided sales tax funding for police, fire and other public safety programs. However, special districts, including fire districts, do not receive any funds from those revenues. Which seems in direct contrast to the Proposition’s intent. As was explained in the proposition in 1993, and explained by Lockyer at the time, independent fire districts are entitled to Proposition 172 funds, but under the discretion of that county’s board of supervisors, which also has the authority to change the allocation of funding among local public safety entities.
The property tax loss has been particularly difficult for special districts because, unlike cities and counties, property tax revenue is the ONLY tax revenue special districts receive.
DISCUSSION
The Districts property tax revenues are reduced by allocations that are made to the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF). Those funds are shifted by the County and are allocated to schools, community colleges and county offices of education as a means to offset state general fund aid. San Mateo County has been experiencing excess ERAF contributions, therefore partial rebates are being given back to the Cities, and Special Districts.


The following table lists the current and historical ERAF shift from Fiscal Year (FY) 2007-08 through
FY 2015-16 and below the table is the graph of the annual dollars of ERAF shift.
EDUCATION REVENUE AUGMENTATION FUND (ERAF)
SHIFT
Fiscal Year (FY)
FY 2007-08 FY 2008-09 FY 2009-10 FY 2010-11 FY 2011-12 FY 2012-13 FY 2013-14 FY 2014-15 FY 2015-16
Shift
($3,105,505) ($3,349,598) ($3,488,940) ($3,507,782) ($3,564,958) ($3,767,448) ($4,056,034) ($4,317,445) ($4,745,090)

The following is a chart and graph of the ERAF rebate for FY 2007-08 through FY 2015-16.
EDUCATION REVENUE AUGMENTATION FUND (ERAF)
REBATE
Fiscal Year (FY)
FY 2007-08 FY 2008-09 FY 2009-10 FY 2010-11 FY 2011-12 FY 2012-13 FY 2013-14 FY 2014-15 FY 2015-16
Re bate
$1,498,536 $1,634,741 $2,220,864 $2,058,746 $2,119,523 $2,577,900 $2,884,409 $3,173,619 $2,989,544

The final chart and graph below show the net ERAF for FY 2007-08 through FY 2015-16
EDUCATION REVENUE AUGMENTATION FUND (ERAF)
NET
Fiscal Year (FY)
FY 2007-08 FY 2008-09 FY 2009-10 FY 2010-11 FY 2011-12 FY 2012-13 FY 2013-14 FY 2014-15 FY 2015-16
Re bate
($1,606,969) ($1,714,857) ($1,268,076) ($1,449,036) ($1,445,435) ($1,189,548) ($1,171,625) ($1,143,826) ($1,755,546)

CONCLUSION
This report is for informational purposes only in response to a Board member’s request at the June 28, 2016 Special Board meeting.
*****
pdf with tables properly aligned is available at:

Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 12, 2016 at 3:01 pm

[Post removed. Off topic.]


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 12, 2016 at 3:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Once again let me remind the readers that the Fire District serves the residents in the Fire District. The Fire District is accountable to those residents and those residents elect the members of the Fire Board to represent their interests.

The Fire District does not serve the City of East Palo Alto, the City of Menlo Park, the Town of Atherton or the County of San Mateo except to provide free services to the property owned by those political entities. The Fire District is not accountable to those political entities.


13 people like this
Posted by Mediator
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 12, 2016 at 3:21 pm

This email exchange is driving me crazy. Both groups on either side of this issue is simply "announcing" things to one another, but there is little communication.

Instead, at tomorrow's Fire District - Finance Committee, I suggest that the Atherton Finance Director. Robert Barron be formally invited. Similarly, when the Atherton Finance and Audit Committee meets, that a formal invitation be extended to Kathleen Jackson, the Fire District Administrative Services Manager and/or Senior Accountant, Fariba Ghahremani, or their replacement.

There is a fundamental failure to communicate with a lack of a dialogue, with people hiding behind their emails. A face to face meeting may resolve this log jam of misunderstanding, name calling, blaming and threats of consultant's reports.

Perhaps someone can serve in a shuttle diplomacy capacity. Maybe the California Governor needs to get involved to offer a mediator. The bickering and bantering must stop.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 12, 2016 at 3:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire District's web site contain all of the financial information that is available.

I have personally reached out to each Atherton Town Council member and asked them if they want any additional information - none has been requested.

The Town Manager has publicly stated "Board Member Carpenter responded with information we already knew and could easily extrapolate as we have had this information for some time."


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Posted by Broken record
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2016 at 7:20 pm

Mediator, great points. [Portion removed; stick to the issues and don't attack other posters]


2 people like this
Posted by Bully
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 13, 2016 at 7:34 am

Disgusted. The town is merely asking questions and the town Council and town manager are being bullied by a member of the fireboard. I love our firefighters, but I am absolutely disgusted by the behavior of our fire board. Their silence on this issue condones the behavior above. The behavior and commentary must stop – the board and Council should meet. It is clear from the town manager email posted above but they are trying to do so. Yet the fire board member continues to bully. Unacceptable.


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Posted by Bullying
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 13, 2016 at 9:01 am

[Post removed. Off topic.]


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Posted by Yep
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 13, 2016 at 9:05 am

[Post removed. Please make your point without characterizations of other posters.]


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Posted by Bully
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 13, 2016 at 9:19 am

@Bullying

Absolutely. Bullying on all sides on this forum. Time to stop the dialogue.

Your last comment with respect to the fire board member's assertion about the town manager, you are assuming that everything posted here is fact - on both sides.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 13, 2016 at 9:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the Fire District’s statutory authority:

"13862. A district shall have the power to provide the following services:
(a) Fire protection services.
(b) Rescue services.
(c) Emergency medical services.
(d) Hazardous material emergency response services.
(e) Ambulance services, pursuant to Division 2.5 (commencing with Section 1797).
(f) Any other services relating to the protection of lives and property."


What is the Town of Atherton’s statutory authority to assert oversight over the Fire District?


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

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