How much should nonresidents pay to play in Menlo Park? | April 2, 2014 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - April 2, 2014

How much should nonresidents pay to play in Menlo Park?

by Sandy Brundage

How much should people who don't live in the city pay to participate in Menlo Park's recreation programs? The Parks and Recreation Commission recently took a look at whether a 35 percent surcharge for nonresidents is appropriate, and found the question intriguing enough to schedule a second discussion.

The "nonresident" category includes those living in unincorporated Menlo Park. In January the city received a letter from Jon Kossow, who lives in Menlo Oaks — an area under county jurisdiction — asking why his family had to pay more and wait to register for popular classes such as gymnastics.

"My interest here began when my daughter was 'shut out' of a town gymnastics program at Burgess," Mr. Kassow told the Almanac. By the time the one-week waiting period for nonresident enrollment ended, the class was full, although his daughter had been able to take the class twice before.

Mr. Kassow pointed out that families living in unincorporated areas still send their kids to Menlo Park schools, but between higher fees and late enrollment, children such as his daughter end up unable to take classes with their friends.

According to city staff, nonresidents make up nearly half of the participants in Menlo Park's recreation programs, with 16 percent coming from the unincorporated neighborhoods. The nonresident surcharge generates about $380,582 annually for Menlo Park.

A survey of other Peninsula cities found an average surcharge of 25 percent for nonresidents, the report said. One — Foster City — charges a flat $10 fee instead.

But some cities, such as Redwood City, Mountain View and San Carlos, don't charge those living in unincorporated areas more.

The surcharge in Menlo Park has risen over the years as the city works towards complete cost recovery for many of its recreation programs. In the past, the council has opted against subsidizing nonresidents, since the programs are financially supported by taxpayers living within incorporated Menlo Park.

Mr. Kassow has suggested that residents living within the Menlo Park zip codes, which include unincorporated areas of town, all be allowed to register on the first day of enrollment. Those in unincorporated neighborhoods would pay 10 percent more; all other nonresidents would have the one-week waiting period and continue to pay a 35 percent surcharge. In addition, he said, households should be able to register only people living in their household — that is, "someone cannot register nine kids for gymnastics when they only have two kids living in their home."

After listening to Mr. Kassow's presentation during a meeting on March 26, the parks and recreation commissioners opted to table the matter until staff could return at a future date with more information about the city's history of allowing priority registration for residents, the distinction between residents in unincorporated Menlo Park and other nonresidents, household eligibility, and discrepancies between what information Mr. Kassow provided and what was in the staff report, according to Community Services Manager Derek Schweigart, who serves as staff liaison to the commission.


Posted by member, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 2, 2014 at 4:30 pm

Some of my daughter's friends experience this same problem. I can understand why unincorporated residents should have to pay more, but they should have equal access that their friends from school. Registration should start at the same time. I agree with John Kassow and thank him for bringing up this issue.

Posted by Jennifer, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 2, 2014 at 4:50 pm

I could not agree more with Jon and support his recommendation. We also encounter these issues as residents of Menlo Oaks.

Posted by Erin Glanville, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 2, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Palo Alto also treats unincorporated residents as residents. San Carlos, Redwood City and Palo Alto, according to their community services managers, target 15% as a surcharge for true non-residents.

More information can be found here: Web Link

Posted by Jim, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 2, 2014 at 5:18 pm

We agree with Mr Kussow. Residents of Menlo Park, especially those within 94025 should be able to participate without having to wait, or pay surcharges.

Posted by Scott, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 4, 2014 at 11:48 am

I absolutely agree with Mr. Kossow. I think the key is equal accessibility to these programs. It also seems logical that the surcharge would be higher for someone in a neighboring city vs. those of us who are part of the Menlo Park community and just happen to live in an unincorporated region.

Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 4, 2014 at 11:59 am

"those of us who are part of the Menlo Park community and just happen to live in an unincorporated region."

It is illogical to talk about a sense of community when the residents in the unincorporated areas are not residents of the City of Menlo Park. It those residents wish to be part of the City of Menlo Park then they should petition the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) to become part of the City of Menlo Park and have the issue put to a vote of the residents.

Web Link

A community should not be defined by the US Postal Service. Remember that Atherton used to be part of 94025 - what happens if the USPS decides to further subdivide 94025? That is not a logical way to make local government decisions.

" Defining ourselves by ZIP code rather than metropolitan region, county, or even city diminishes the sense of the commonwealth. "

from The Tyranny of the ZIP Code

Unincorporated areas are just that NOT incorporated into a local jurisdiction. What is so hard to understand about that?

Citizenship has both responsibilities and privileges and citizenship in the City of Menlo Park requires that you LIVE in the City of Menlo Park.

Posted by Will, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Apr 4, 2014 at 7:07 pm

I have no issue with residents of unincorporated Menlo Park having the same enrollment period as the residents of Menlo Park proper, but the reduction of fees does not make any sense - they contribute the same amount financially in taxes to the city as a normal non-resident so why would the surcharge be different? Keep them in line with other non-residents for it to be fair.

Posted by City of Menlo Park taxpayer, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2014 at 8:55 am

Please don't confuse the school districts with the city of menlo park. They are not the same at all. Their budgets are managed totally separately.

A surcharge for non-residents makes sense; said differently, a reduced fee for residents makes sense. Non-residents don't pay taxes like city of mp taxpayers do for the recreation bond measures, the city infrastructure, or to fill the city general fund. I do not know what amount makes sense but the fees for programs in total should pay for the programs. For non-residents, there should be an additional "fair share" amount that goes towards the infrastructure and overhead that makes those programs possible.

A registration delay is fair for the above reasons, too. If the capacity is inadequate, work on that.

The city should implement consistent policies regardless of whether the city administers the programs or a for-profit vendor like Swim Menlo does. And the residents of the city should benefit from the surcharge by having the extra amount go to the city's coffers, not the vendor. Otherwise, the vendor would have an incentive to favor non-residents.

Posted by Menlo Park Supporter, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Apr 12, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Many kids who live in Atherton also live within the Menlo Park City School District boundaries and attend the MPCSD pubic schools, which includes schools based both in Menlo Park AND Atherton. Given we have no retail in Atherton, we default to Menlo Park as our home town. As a matter of fact, we live so close to downtown that we walk in to town multiple times each week to have dinner, shop etc.

The town of Atherton has no Gymnastics facilities so we immersed ourselves in the Burgess program from the time our girls were toddlers. Just as those residents in the unincorporated areas of Menlo Park,we also have no "preferential" status in another city when it comes to Gymnastics and many other programs not offered in Atherton. AND, more importantly, our girls have wanted to do this activity with their MPCSD classmates.

We completely understand that because we don't pay Menlo Park property taxes, an upcharge is reasonable. However, the delayed registration policy is deeply dismaying. It's really tough on a young kid to hear that she can't do a sport with her close classmates who she's attended school with her whole life because she lives on one side of Valparaiso instead of the other, or to hear that although she was in the class last session, she can't continue on this session because she was locked out.

I hope that if any special considerations are made for those who live in the unincorporated areas, that these same considerations will be made for those who live in Atherton. We have the same circumstances: We support Menlo Park establishments and add to the sales tax base because we don't have retail of our own, our kids go to the same MPCSD schools and we don't have our own home town recreation program with gymnastics, etc.