After cutting tens of millions of dollars from the city of Menlo Park's budget last year, the City Council tentatively agreed to add back the equivalent of 24.5 full-time staff members at a cost of $3.75 million beyond what the city currently funds.
The City Council's discussion of the proposed budget on June 8 provided additional feedback on a number of proposals relating to which services to bring back after pandemic-related budget slashes last year. However, the 2021-22 budget isn't formally scheduled for potential approval until the council's June 22 meeting.
The format for the proposed budget for the upcoming 2021-22 fiscal year started by establishing a baseline option, setting forward a plan to fund the remaining services that weren't cut during the pandemic. From there, city staff developed a tiered list of options that the City Council could select to enhance services beyond the current level.
After working through those four tiers of options, which included at least 18 service proposals, the City Council tentatively agreed, via straw poll, to move forward with plans to approve 24.5 new staff members and $3.75 million to fund those service additions.
Among the service additions planned are:
● restoring planning staffing - $300,000
● adding an economic development manager -$250,000
● Adding a sustainability staff member to implement the climate action plan – $150,000
Council members were a "maybe" on whether to add five full-time employees to maintain the city's downtown area and implement the city's updated Heritage Tree ordinance for $630,000, a "no" on collaborating with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District on an emergency preparedness initiative for $100,000, and a "no" on two proposals related to the police department: to add two full-time employees for traffic enforcement and two civilian public safety personnel members.
Councilwoman Betsy Nash said she opposed the police additions because she wanted staffing discussions to take place when the city goes through an expected process to "reimagine" public safety services.
The council also discussed how to use the $8.3 million the city is expected to receive in federal funds authorized through the American Rescue Plan Act or ARPA, which possible additional revenue sources to consider using, and which possible service enhancements should be funded among four different tiers of priority.
A previous report underestimated the expected surplus expected in the city's 2021-22 operating budget, according to Dan Jacobson, assistant administrative services director. Instead of $9,430, which was reported earlier, the surplus is actually expected to be $549,430.