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Revealing budget: Facebook increases Menlo Park workforce 54% in one year

City's pension costs expected to double in next decade

Menlo Park's draft budget, which lays out the city's financial plan for the coming fiscal year, is out, and it's got some surprising details.

The City Council will discuss the proposed budget at its meeting on Tuesday, June 6, in the council chambers at 701 Laurel St. in the Menlo Park Civic Center. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Perhaps the most startling detail is that in one year, Facebook has apparently increased its Menlo Park workforce by 54 percent. The 2017-18 budget listed the company as Menlo Park's largest employer with 9,350 workers, up from 6,068 in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Another important fact is that, because of a change in the way the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) calculates pension liability, pension costs for the city of Menlo Park are expected to more than double in the next decade, according to City Manager Alex McIntyre.

Budget basics

The proposed budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 would increase general fund spending 6.5 percent to $56.3 million, up from $52.8 million in the 2016-17 fiscal year. Revenue is expected to increase 5.7 percent to $56.87 million. The city's total 2017-18 budget projects $126.5 million in revenue and $116.9 million in spending.

The city expects to get most of its revenue from property taxes ($19.7 million), followed by hotel taxes ($7.2 million), sales tax ($5.2 million), utility users' taxes ($1.3 million), and other sources including grants from other governmental agencies, fines, fees for service. According to projections, this coming year would continue the trend of the city experiencing growth in hotel tax revenue and a slight decrease in sales tax revenue.

Growth

The police department and the Menlo Park Fire Protection District have expressed concerns that they'll need more funding to pay for staffing and equipment to adequately serve the city's new employees and residents.

The City Council is mulling whether to accept $11 million that Facebook has offered over five years to pay for a new police unit for the city's M-2 light industrial and office area bordered by the San Francisco Bay, University Avenue, U.S. 101 and Marsh Road.

When it comes to city employee pension costs, budget forecasts have factored those costs in, but it will be up to the council to decide how to minimize the impacts of those increases, said Nick Pegueros, the city's administrative services director, during a public workshop.

Spending

In the city's budget, the bulk of its largest fund, the general fund, will go toward paying salaries and wages for the city's staff, budgeted to include 270 full-time employees, up from 262 in the previous year.

During the 2016-17 year, the council approved 5.5 new employees. Mr. McIntyre proposes to add two new members to the city's water maintenance staff and funding for a part-time position to expand hours at the Belle Haven Library.

A recent study found that for a water system the size and age of that operated by the Menlo Park Municipal Water District, it should have seven employees to provide service. The city currently has three.

The city plans a number of projects, including a library services needs assessment for the Belle Haven branch library, stormwater inspections for businesses, and the removal of hazardous trees that are at risk of falling and causing damage.

The city plans to spend $37 million for capital improvements in the new fiscal year; $29 million of that would come from appropriations from previous years to pay for about 38 approved projects. The remaining $8 million would be new funding, and would go toward the costs of about 21 new capital projects, including developing a conceptual design for a renovated or rebuilt main library, resurfacing city streets, replacing water mains, modifying traffic signals, repairing sidewalks, doing a "complete streets" traffic study in the Willows neighborhood, and remodeling the Belle Haven Child Development Center kitchen and restrooms, according to the city manager's proposal.

By the numbers

Menlo Park's 2017-18 budget has statistics on city services used during the 2016-17 fiscal year. Here are a few:

● 1.4 million hours spent by people in community services programs, including parks and recreation programs.

● 431,000 books circulated at Menlo Park libraries (main and Belle Haven branch).

● 349,900 visits to Menlo Park libraries (main and Belle Haven branch).

● 43,600 public notices mailed.

● 40,000 police dispatch calls for service.

● 15,000 parking citations processed.

● 10,500 911 emergency calls.

● 3,200 estimated pounds of trash cleared from the creek.

● 4,467 business licenses renewed.

● 841 new business licenses issued.

● 690 residential building permits issued.

● 190 commercial building permits issued.

For more information, access the budget online here, read the meeting agenda here or watch the meeting online here.

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