It's June, and that means it's budget season. After releasing its draft budget May 10, the city of Menlo Park held a community meeting on the proposed budget June 1. Next, the Menlo Park City Council is scheduled to discuss the proposed budget on Tuesday, June 8, and consider its approval on Tuesday, June 22.
Compared to the last fiscal year, which was characterized by a global pandemic and its widespread impacts, the coming year's budget will focus on restoration.
"Whereas fiscal year 2020-21 was one of hard choices and ensuring stability, my proposed budget for fiscal year 2021-22 allows for restoration and regrowth, an opportunity for reflection and introspection on city service delivery models, the highest and best use of resources, and reestablishing support to the community," said City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson in a public letter introducing the proposed city budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
Of note, Jerome-Robinson said, are four new items proposed to receive funding in the upcoming fiscal year, based on priorities the City Council has identified. They are: redistricting in response to the results of the 2020 census, evaluating a Caltrain quiet zone, working on a complete streets study of Middle Avenue and increasing staffing by a half-time employee to support the new community center campus to be developed in Belle Haven.
In addition, two council priorities do not yet have funding set aside: reimagining both public safety services and the city's downtown area. The City Council needs to have study sessions on each of those topics before city staff can figure out the scope of those projects and how much they will cost to implement, Jerome-Robinson said.
In addition to the proposed budget, staff identified several tiers of service level enhancements that the City Council could authorize as a group, or in an "a la carte" fashion, picking and choosing specific items. The proposed budget does not recommend reductions in service levels from the current ones, staff noted.
The four tiers of service-level enhancements are identified as those the City Council has flagged as priorities, followed by services staff members have identified; third, improvements to technology and customer service; and fourth, responses to public inquiries and requests.
The proposed general fund budget lays out expectations of $57.6 million in revenue and $61.6 million in expenses. And while hotel taxes fell in the 2020-21 fiscal year, to about $4.2 million compared to the pre-pandemic amount of $10.3 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year, the tax levels are expected to rebound, with about $8.2 million expected in the 2021-22 fiscal year, according to staff.
The baseline budget leaves an operating surplus of $9,430, according to Nick Pegueros, assistant city manager, who presented details about the budget to the community at the June 1 meeting. That's an improvement over last year's projected operating budget surplus of $1.
Access the proposed budget here.