The 2022-23 budget reflects the "stark reality" in the last few years that the town now needs more staffing to support its services, according to a memo from Town Manager Jeremy Dennis.
"Reaching this conclusion is not a light affair; in many ways, it can feel counter to the town's traditional use of volunteers, through its committees, to conduct most of the town's work," he wrote. "However, a combination of the sheer amount of work, the complexity of the issues faced by California municipalities (whether from the state, from an emerging issue, the legal landscape, or all of the above), and the continued changes to volunteerism, requires that additional professional staff become part of the Portola Valley team."
The town expects a $720,096 deficit during the 2022 budget, in part because of all the expenses tied to planning for the housing and safety elements. The town anticipates spending $366,500 for the housing element, $104,000 for the safety element and $170,000 for California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) filings related to the two elements, for a total of close to about $640,000, according to the town's draft budget. The Town Council planned to vote on Wednesday, June 22, after The Almanac's print deadline.
The deficit is not expected to be ongoing or multiyear, and is a reflection of one-time projects. It also does not include additional revenue streams, such as utility user tax in fiscal year 2023-24, and fees to be studied next year to offset construction impacts on the town, for example, the memo notes.
The 2022 budget includes $263,000 for continued fire mitigation. A development permit technician will cost the town $102,820 in salary and benefits.
The finance department has also seen an increase of its workload, and a backlog related to COVID-19. Town staff would like to hire a temporary employee to help with the workload, using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
In the 2023 budget, the town's contract with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, which provides police services, will be up for renewal.
For the 2022-23 budget, Atherton's general fund revenues are projected at almost $19.6 million and expenditures are expected to be $17.7 million, according to an agenda packet for a June 15 Atherton City Council meeting. The council approved the budget at the meeting.
Of the projected revenues, $14.3 million is expected to come from property taxes, up from an estimated $13.1 million for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
The town planning department also has significant one-time cost increases ($283,000) for the safety and housing elements, along with zoning code updates. These costs are offset by a $65,000 state grant the town received to support the town housing element, according to Town Manager George Rodericks. During the last cycle, in 2013, it cost the town roughly $40,000 to plan for its housing element, he noted.
The public works department saw an increase of nearly $337,000 from the previous fiscal year. The department recently went through a restructuring to include the hiring of a public works director and other positions like a parks manager.
Spending on the police department will increase by almost $272,000. The department has not been since the fall of 2015, according to the town. These vacancies often result in increased overtime, costs that are offset by overall salary savings at the end of the year.
There is also a renewal of the town's Tasers, body cameras, interview cameras and vehicles.
Overall, the salary and benefits category of police costs increased by $305,610. This is largely due to the negotiated, 4-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Atherton Police Officer's Association expiring.
In Woodside, the town continues to be in a strong position over the next five years, according to the budget document. The Town Council will vote on the budget in July, according to Town Manager Kevin Bryant.
Revenue is expected to come in at roughly $11.2 million, with about $4.4 million (or 40%) from property taxes (a 5% increase from the previous year's budget), according to town estimates.
Expenditures total about $10.9 million. The biggest costs are salaries and benefits for staff (about $2.7 million), about $2.5 million for the police contract with the Sheriff's Office and about $880,000 for hazardous tree removal. The town is receiving a state grant of nearly $661,000 to support the program.
The budget includes a five-year plan for capital improvements in town. This year, there are about $2.1 million in improvements plan, the biggest of which is $475,000 for a roads rehabilitation plan. About $1.5 million of the rehabilitation project will be spent to retrofit the Kings Mountain Bridge over Union Creek. The bridge is eligible for the federal Highway Bridge Program, which would cover 88.5% of the costs.
The 2022-27 capital improvement program includes the following projects:
•Kings Mountain Bridge over Union Creek
•Town Center sewer capital improvements
•Woodside Road bicycle, pedestrian and equestrian safety
•Sand Hill Road/Portola Road intersection improvements
Last fiscal year, the town finished the $2.2 million replacement of the Portola Road Bridge — its most substantial capital project since the renovation of the Woodside Library in 2016.
American Rescue Plan Act
The federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) apportioned funds to help support cities and towns hit by the pandemic.
Portola Valley anticipates receiving under $1.1 million, provided in two payments. The second payment is expected in July. The town has allocated $160,000 for technology to create a hybrid Zoom room at Town Hall, $140,000 for an assistant to the town manager and $65,000 for planning consultants.
Woodside expects to receive its second installment of these funds of nearly $653,000, bringing the town's total ARP funds to $1.3 million. The money will be used to help expand the town's broadband service.
Atherton received all its funds, around $1.7 million, during the 2021 fiscal year, according to Rodericks.
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