News

Tonight: Atherton to study loss of parcel tax revenue

How the loss of $1.86 million in annual parcel tax revenue will affect the capital improvement and police department programs the Atherton tax paid for will be the focus of a Wednesday, Dec. 6, City Council study session.

Revenues from the tax, which the town has had in place since 1978, could only be spent on police, road and drainage projects. In recent years, the town has allocated 80 percent of parcel tax revenue to street and drainage capital improvement projects and 20 percent to pay for two police officers (a school resource officer and a traffic officer).

The parcel tax was $750 a year for the average homeowner. With a renewal of the tax losing at the polls in November, the tax will end June 30, 2018, unless the council chooses to put it back on the ballot and two-thirds of voters approve it.

Capital projects

Losing the parcel tax means the town will have to reduce its five-year capital improvements budget by $5.9 million, a staff report says.

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The report recommends these spending reductions over five years:

● Street maintenance reduced by $2.25 million to $1 million.

● Drainage improvements reduced by $2.1 million to $1.3 million.

● Bike and pedestrian improvements reduced by $1 million to $300,000.

● A study of ways to make El Camino more useable reduced by $200,000 to $25,000;

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● Bridge maintenance program reduced by $75,000 to $100,000

Two projects are recommended for elimination: studying quad gates at the Watkins railroad crossing (which was $100,000) and accessibility improvements (which was $150,000).

Police department

The town staff report says the police department recommends finding other funding for the two officers currently paid for by parcel tax revenues "to maintain the high level of police services, expected customer service, low response times, mitigate overtime, and continue a school presence." If funding is not available, the recommendation is to not fill a current police officer vacancy.

If additional savings are needed, the report recommends eliminating the school resource officer unless the position can be funded by local schools.

The report also recommends the town look at replacing some of the lost revenues by increasing the town's business license tax, which would require voter approval. The report says, depending on how the new tax is structured, it could bring in between $150,000 to $800,000 more annually than the current business license tax.

The town has limited options for funding projects that had been funded by the parcel tax over the next three years because until the new civic center is completed, any general fund revenues not used for operating expenses have been allocated to pay for the construction project.

The meeting starts at 4 p.m. in the town's council chambers at 91 Ashfield Road.

See the agenda on the town's website.

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Tonight: Atherton to study loss of parcel tax revenue

by Barbara Wood / Almanac

Uploaded: Tue, Dec 5, 2017, 8:55 am
Updated: Wed, Dec 6, 2017, 9:14 am

How the loss of $1.86 million in annual parcel tax revenue will affect the capital improvement and police department programs the Atherton tax paid for will be the focus of a Wednesday, Dec. 6, City Council study session.

Revenues from the tax, which the town has had in place since 1978, could only be spent on police, road and drainage projects. In recent years, the town has allocated 80 percent of parcel tax revenue to street and drainage capital improvement projects and 20 percent to pay for two police officers (a school resource officer and a traffic officer).

The parcel tax was $750 a year for the average homeowner. With a renewal of the tax losing at the polls in November, the tax will end June 30, 2018, unless the council chooses to put it back on the ballot and two-thirds of voters approve it.

Capital projects

Losing the parcel tax means the town will have to reduce its five-year capital improvements budget by $5.9 million, a staff report says.

The report recommends these spending reductions over five years:

● Street maintenance reduced by $2.25 million to $1 million.

● Drainage improvements reduced by $2.1 million to $1.3 million.

● Bike and pedestrian improvements reduced by $1 million to $300,000.

● A study of ways to make El Camino more useable reduced by $200,000 to $25,000;

● Bridge maintenance program reduced by $75,000 to $100,000

Two projects are recommended for elimination: studying quad gates at the Watkins railroad crossing (which was $100,000) and accessibility improvements (which was $150,000).

Police department

The town staff report says the police department recommends finding other funding for the two officers currently paid for by parcel tax revenues "to maintain the high level of police services, expected customer service, low response times, mitigate overtime, and continue a school presence." If funding is not available, the recommendation is to not fill a current police officer vacancy.

If additional savings are needed, the report recommends eliminating the school resource officer unless the position can be funded by local schools.

The report also recommends the town look at replacing some of the lost revenues by increasing the town's business license tax, which would require voter approval. The report says, depending on how the new tax is structured, it could bring in between $150,000 to $800,000 more annually than the current business license tax.

The town has limited options for funding projects that had been funded by the parcel tax over the next three years because until the new civic center is completed, any general fund revenues not used for operating expenses have been allocated to pay for the construction project.

The meeting starts at 4 p.m. in the town's council chambers at 91 Ashfield Road.

See the agenda on the town's website.

Comments

Lies
Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 5, 2017 at 12:06 pm
Lies, Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 5, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Looks like Lewis’ statement here a few weeks ago was a lie. Not a single consideration of scaling back Atherton’s own Taj Mahal, the proposed town center. All cuts to infrastructure and safety. This is not what residents expect.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 5, 2017 at 4:43 pm
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Dec 5, 2017 at 4:43 pm

It is ludicrous to suggest that capital improvements and police services depend on another parcel tax.

The increases in property taxes have and will exceed the loss from the expiring parcel tax.

To even suggest that essential services will be cut before cutting other expenditures is the Washington monument strategy used by the Park Service whenever its budget is threatened -"if you cut our budget then we will close the Washington monument."


PeninsulaGirl
Registered user
Atherton: West of Alameda
on Dec 6, 2017 at 2:03 pm
PeninsulaGirl, Atherton: West of Alameda
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2017 at 2:03 pm

I don't usually comment here, but I find what the town is doing absolutely ludicrous---specifically, the lack of commitment to improving BIKE/pedestrian SAFETY.

I am worried about bicycle safety. I grew up here, and I remember (as a student at Las Lomitas) that in the 1970s, the ATHERTON POLICE RAN A BIKE SAFETY PROGRAM. Officers came to school to teach us about how to ride safely and attentively, and they set up a little obstacle course with orange pylons in the parking lot, which we then navigated. It was informative and fun. And then they sponsored a bike-a-thon through town, with lots of families riding together on a set course one weekend.

We all complain about traffic, and we should be ENCOURAGING KIDS TO BIKE TO SCHOOL. We should think about the fact that EVERY KID RIDING TO SCHOOL MEANS ONE LESS PARENT IN AN SUV, DRIVING THE AFOREMENTIONED KID TO SCHOOL.

When I moved back to Atherton in 2015, I decided to do some "bike reconnaissance" to find a route for my then-6th-grade son to ride his bike from West Atherton (near Las Lomitas) to his school (Synapse, on Edison Way, near 5th).

Here's what happened:

-- I WAS HIT BY A CAR (after crossing El Camino, with the signal, at Atherton Ave) in August of 2015. I hadn't previously realized what a RIDICULOUS intersection we have at Atherton Ave (our main street!). Heading eastbound, one cannot cross El Camino and stay on the correct side of the street. (I was about to write, "and stay in the bike lane," but of course THERE ISN'T ONE. So when I reached El Camino, I had to first walk my bike across Atherton Ave, dodging the cars--who barely slow down, let alone stop--at the red light as they turn right to go southbound on El Camino. Then, I waited for the green light and rode across El Camino in the crosswalk, until I reached the WALL--no semblance of a bike lane here, just a WALL. Then I had to carefully go forward a few yards toward Fair Oaks, where there is NO visibility of oncoming westbound traffic turning right to head northbound on El Camino. THIS is where I was hit. The car (turning from Fair Oaks onto northbound El Camino) hit my front tire, with me standing on one foot waiting to cross Fair Oaks to get back onto the right side of the street. The impact spun my bike around, and when the driver saw that I was still standing, she yelled, "Sorry!" and sped away. I was so stunned that I couldn't even get her license plate number.

-- A few days later, I went to the Atherton Public Works Department and spoke with Stephen Tyler. When I told him about what had happened to me and asked, "If Atherton Ave. is the town's main street and it's this dangerous, where is it safe to cross?" And do you know what he answered? "Valparaiso." Seriously. The answer to the "Where-can-one-safely-cross-El-Camino-in-Atherton" question is...MENLO PARK. I was truly disappointed by that answer, because it would have added 2 miles to my son's possible route, so I decided to drive him to 6th grade, along with all the other parents clogging up the morning commute.

-- Interestingly, when I asked Mr. Tyler about whether Atherton had any plans to improve safety, he simply passed the problem off on CalTrans (which is responsible for El Camino, since it is officially a state highway). What HE DIDN'T TELL ME was that a citizen committee (and a company called Interwest Consulting Group, contracted by the city) had been diligently working on the 2014 "Town of Atherton Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan," finalized in July of 2014 and approved by the city council in August of 2014 (a year before I was hit and went to see Mr. Tyler). I only learned about this on my own, searching the town's website in October.

-- Last spring, at the end of my son's 7th grade year (in which I was driving him), we realized that one of his friends was safely riding his bike to Synapse and crossing El Camino via Selby Lane, since there is a crossing guard (paid for by the Redwood City School District, because of the 600-plus students at Selby Lane School) there. So this past August, my son started riding to school.
At first, he rode with his friend, whom he collected on Polhemus, on their way to Selby, but after the first week he was on his own because he friend BROKE HIS ARM when a car drove way too close*, startling him and causing his bike wheel to slip off the asphalt and flip him onto the gravel.

-- On October 2nd, MY SON WAS HIT BY A CAR and BROKE HIS ARM on WEST SELBY LANE**, not quite to El Camino, as he crossed over West Selby to the northwest corner, where the crossing guard stands. The car that hit him was turning right to head southbound on El Camino, so the driver was looking left, to see oncoming El Camino traffic, and didn't look to his right AT ALL, until he hit my son.

-- After our morning at the hospital (and discussions with the driver's insurance company), I went with my son to the Atherton Police department and spoke with Officer Gatto. He said that filing an official report was not necessary (because I already had hospital and insurance records) but that he would make a note of it. He sounded genuinely concerned about bike safety ("You're preaching to the choir...These roads aren't made to handle this much traffic") and told me that at that moment they were trying to track down a hit-and-run driver who had hit a 28-year-old cyclist heading Westbound on Atherton Ave that very morning. (It sounded like that man's injuries were far worse than my son's, and I cannot find any additional information in the press concerning that man's health.)

-- When I searched the town's website and found the beautiful 50-plus-page "Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan" of July 2014, I saw that the painted arrows on certain streets---with the catchy name "SHARROWS"---as well as the posted signs (to "stay 3 feet from bicycles") represented PHASE I of the city's plan.

A couple problems with PHASE I:

1) THE "SHARROWS" AND THE SIGNS DO NOT WORK. At all. *I noted earlier our friend's accident that resulted from a car driving too close.
**Also, 2 weeks (mid-September) before my son was hit, a driver on SELBY (betw. Atherton Ave and West Selby) rolled down her window and YELLED AT HIM, "YOU'RE TAKING UP TOO MUCH OF THE ROAD!!"
Not only was he on the very edge of the asphalt (and remembering his friend's wipe-out because of a car), but THEY WERE LITERALLY NEXT TO A SHARROW AND ONE OF THE "REMAIN 3 FEET AWAY" SIGNS.
I realize that on many of Atherton's streets, IT ISN'T POSSIBLE to remain 3 feet away without driving into oncoming traffic, but it seems that drivers would rather yell at scared 13-year-olds than slow down and wait to pass.
BIKE LANES WOULD FIX THIS PROBLEM...

2)...and, interestingly enough, BIKE LANES are supposed to be the PHASE II of the plan.
In the "Initial Master Plan Project List," 3rd on the "CLASS II Bike Lanes" list of needs is...drumroll...West SELBY LANE, starting at El Camino. The report describes West Selby thus: "Existing Class II near ECR does not meet minimum standards. Could be phased with PRIORITY .5 miles from ECR to Austin."
Although for some reason, West Selby has NOT been given priority as far as I can see.

ATHERTON HAS A SERIOUS PROBLEM HERE, AND IT'S NOT ALL ON THE EL CAMINO.

How many more children and adults have to be hit by drivers on Atherton's streets---NOT El Camino, mind you, but streets like Atherton Ave, Alameda, Polhemus, Selby and West Selby---before the town does something?

THE TOWN HAS ENOUGH MONEY TO ADD BIKE LANES AND PROTECT THE LIVES OF BICYCLISTS.
The Almanac recently ran a story that mentioned that CalTrans had to pay $8 million each to the families of the two pedestrians who were killed on El Camino---the ones that prompted the new flashing lights at the Almendral, Isabella, and Alejandra intersections.
BUT THERE IS NO MENTION OF SELBY...even though OVER 600 schoolchildren attend the school there.

There are NO LIGHTS for HALF A MILE of El Camino---from the town limit sign to the Almendral light (which is unusable for cyclists, because there is no bike lane opposite it).

$8 million. Is Atherton ready to shell out $8 million for the next person killed or gravely injured on an Atherton street? I think that it would be a much wiser use of funds to spend the town's money to PREVENT deaths/injuries rather than wait to be sued.

I don't blame you if you weren't willing to read all the through this particular screed of mine, but the Traffic Committee seldom meets (and seemingly always on Wednesdays, when I cannot attend).

I appreciate having this forum, and I value the time our citizens take to share their experiences.


Lindenwoodhomeowner
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 9, 2017 at 9:18 am
Lindenwoodhomeowner, Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 9, 2017 at 9:18 am

How convenient that the council filled the bulk of the meeting with an informative yet tortuous presentation about water rate setting. There was no time left to learn about the parcel tax impacts or overhear the council's public discussion about spending priorities. Two hours of wasted time for those of who attended a meeting which was advertised differently in the press.


Peter Carpenter
Registered user
Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 9, 2017 at 9:35 am
Peter Carpenter, Atherton: Lindenwood
Registered user
on Dec 9, 2017 at 9:35 am

this is simply a question of agenda management. The issue of greatest interest should have been placed first on the agenda rather than last - unless of course the plan was to bury the third topic:
****************
Town of Atherton
CITY COUNCIL
AGENDA
December 6, 2107


This Agenda may not reflect the actual order of items. The order of items is subject to change based on Council action.

STUDY SESSION AGENDA

1. CALWATER PRESENTATION – RATE APPLICATION AND PROCESS
Report: CalWater

2. GRADE SEPARATION – LETTER FROM MENLO PARK AND LETTER FROM FELTON GABLES
Report: Discussion, Q&A

3. REVIEW THE TOWN’S CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECT PRIORITIES, ADDRESS REVENUE SHORTFALLS DUE TO THE LOSS OF THE SPECIAL PARCEL TAX, REVIEW PLANNED REVENUE SOLUTIONS AND PROVIDE FEEDBACK
PowerPoint Presentation
Report: City Manager George Rodericks
Recommendation: Review, discuss, and provide feedback on the Town’s Capital Improvement Project priorities, address revenue shortfalls due to the loss of the Special Parcel Tax and review planned revenue solutions, and provide feedback"


Attendees
Atherton: other
on Dec 9, 2017 at 9:58 am
Attendees, Atherton: other
on Dec 9, 2017 at 9:58 am

From the video, Calwater was merely a presentation with a little Q&A. Lasted 28 minutes. The largest number of attendees at the meeting were there for the second item - grade separation. That lasted an hour, including comments from the public. That left 30 for the last item - before which, most of the audience left.


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