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Fire district gets big slice of property taxes

Original post made on Jan 31, 2017

This is the second in a series of stories on the budget and financing of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, which covers Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and some nearby unincorporated areas.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 1, 2017, 12:00 AM

Comments (68)

11 people like this
Posted by Say hey?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 31, 2017 at 2:47 pm

I guess if you’re that rich, a hundred thousand is nothing to get too excited about.

Fortunately for us poor taxpayers, the Fire Board seems to have finally, belatedly, eventually paid a consultant to tell it that it didn’t need to keep going to voters for Gann Limit overrides.

At least two of these elections were held — with a cost that has “been as high as $100k.”

Measure Y in 2015 and Measure F in 2011 were both held after, “the District first identified that something was ‘wrong’ in 2007/08.” Although, “in 1988, Proposition 98 allowed excess appropriations to be transferred to K-14 schools,” the District moved in 2011 — despite the severe cutbacks to education since the 2008 recession began — to decisively keep every penny. Finally, six years later, “in 2013 the District began to request the previous year’s data from the County.” And then, " … all of the pieces fell together in 2015 …”

Finally. Belatedly. Eventually. For our “prudent” district with its ethos of paying “the true cost of business.” And stridency in criticizing other city and school boards for their supposed mismanagement of far less wealth.

All quotes from this article or the Menlo Park Fire Protection District Staff Report, Meeting Date June 21, 2016, findable here:
Web Link


18 people like this
Posted by Excuse Me
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 31, 2017 at 3:08 pm

I'm sorry...what? And Mr Carpenter is worried about Teacher/Education Staff Unions??

"The fire district spends twice as much as East Palo Alto on employee compensation (wages plus benefits and employer contribution to retirement) although it has only 10 more employees.

The fire district spent four-and-a-half times as much on employee compensation as Atherton did in 2015, with two-and-a-half times as many employees."


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 31, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire Board and the Fire District do not get to decide how much they receive in property taxes and the Fire District does not have any parcel taxes.

Their job is to use the property taxes that are received responsibly to provide high quality services to all of the residents of the District and to pay the full cost of those services, including capital equipment and facilities replacement and pension costs, from current revenues.

This excellent article details exactly how the Fire Board and District have carried out these responsibilities.


4 people like this
Posted by Petr
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 31, 2017 at 5:09 pm

No mention of "cost effective"?


22 people like this
Posted by Student loans/no pension
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 31, 2017 at 9:52 pm

The controller's website shows, for 2015:

• The fire district had 136 employees (full- and part-time, but not including contractors) with total compensation (wages plus benefits and employer contribution to retirement) spending of $25.1 million.
-->AVERAGE PAY = $184,558.82

• The city of Menlo Park had 531 employees with total compensation of $32.3 million.
-->AVERAGE PAY = $60,828.63

• The city of East Palo Alto had 126 employees with total compensation of $11.5 million.
-->AVERAGE PAY = $91,269.84

• Atherton had 53 employees with total compensation of $5.6 million.
-->AVERAGE PAY = $105,660.38


Compare to highly paid private sector jobs in Menlo Park that require college degrees and continuing education/skills development on Payscale.com, the fire fighters are REALLY paid well.
Web Link

Research scientist: $115,021
Softare engineer: $113, 591
Senior Software Engineer: $131,930
Data Scientist $102,185

Main takeaways from this article:
Fire district pays WAY too much per employee and the Fire district has too much money and far too large of a share of our property tax money. They should share some of the $41M in reserves with city police and other local public agencies to keep funds in the district, including schools. Of course they don't need parcel taxes-- they are rolling in dough!


Thank you Barbara Woods, for this great investigative journalism.



6 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 31, 2017 at 11:54 pm

In 2015 there were eleven firefighter/paramedics with total pay and benefits over $300,000 (from $301K to $350K). And there were 35 with total pay and benefits ranging from from $250,000 to $299,400. Or46 with total pay and benefits over one quarter million dollars.

Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 1, 2017 at 7:25 am

While I applaud MPFD for being progressive in its strategic efforts for financial planning, it does seem to be in step with other government agencies in over paying its employees. The fire chief earns about the same as the Oakland chief and more than the San Diego chief -- 2 cities much larger than MP.

But one only has to look at what the chief investment officer of the CA State Teachers Retirement System made in 2015 - total $745,650, the deputy chief made $612,333, and the managing director of PERS made more than $770,000 (transparentcalifornia.com) to understand that public salaries are greatly skewed. I'm sure a firefighter in Manhattan doesn't earn the same as in MP or the Peninsula, but I'll bet the cost of living and certainly real estate is about the same.

I guess one can get wealthy working for the government.


8 people like this
Posted by rtw
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 1, 2017 at 10:03 am

"46 with total pay and benefits over one quarter million dollars" And they get to shop on company time!

But that durn teacher's union!!!


9 people like this
Posted by Dalmation
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Wow. So I guess that what we the taxpayers get for not attending meetings. Thanks Atherton for opening all of our eyes to this. And thanks to barbara for doing the homework making sense of all those expensive MPFD reports and to board member Bernstein for not feeding us the Karpenter Kool-aid. Hear you loud and clear.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 1, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There is a lot of interesting information here.

Note that Menlo Park, Atherton and East Palo Alto spend a total of 2.6% of their property tax revenues for their chief executives while the Fire District spends only 0.7% of its property tax revenues for its chief executive officer.


4 people like this
Posted by math
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 3:27 pm

"Note that Menlo Park, Atherton and East Palo Alto spend a total of 2.6% of their property tax revenues for their chief executives while the Fire District spends only 0.7% of its property tax revenues for its chief executive officer."

Aren't these the percentages you would expect when the fire district's property tax revenues are more than FOUR TIMES those of each of the three cities? ($41M for the fire district, less than $10M on average for each of the cities) Actually, considering that 0.7% x 4 = 2.8%, maybe it's the cities that are more fiscally responsible.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 1, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Aren't these the percentages you would expect when the fire district's property tax revenues are more than FOUR TIMES those of each of the three cities?"

No - the three cities spend over THREE times as much to pay their three chief executives as does the Fire District to pay its chief executive to manage a smaller total amount of property taxes.

Think efficiency and economies of scale.

Just imagine if Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Atherton were all merged into a single entity. There would be huge savings.


6 people like this
Posted by Petr
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 4:00 pm

(cough) let's change the convo to percentages, yeah, that'll confuse 'em... (ahem)

Got a favorite Mark Twain quote, Peter? Perhaps the one about statistics?


6 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@Bob

a Firefighter in NYC makes ~100,000 (tops) and they start at $40,000. the Battalion Chief make $160,000 and they are NOT 3/50 or 3/55 for pension like our firefighters. They cannot collect a pension until 62 (if they were hired after 1973). They get a 2.0 multiplier for 20 years of service and a 1.66 multiplier for above 20 to 30 years of service. But their FAS (Final Average Salary) calculation is more stringent than CalPers.

With respect to your comment regarding CalPers Financial Officers be paid $700K. That he is paid SO LITTLE to manage a $200B fund is incredible.....trust me when I say that any other money manger with a fund that size would be making MILLIONS per year.

To see Firefighter Salaries in NYC:
Web Link

To See NYC Firefighter Pensions (goto to Page 29 for the numbers):
Web Link

Roy Thiele-Sardina
Co-Chairman Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 1, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Roy - Please provide the figures for West Bay Sanitary salaries vs NYC sanitary workers.


9 people like this
Posted by Let's stay focused
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Feb 1, 2017 at 5:21 pm

We are talking about firefighters and fire districts...no need to try to distract us with other departments like sanitary workers Peter. Stick to the discussion. Thank you.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 1, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Then NYC is a distraction.......


7 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

Peter

See the list attached.

Oh and Peter, these employees are 2/60 on pension.....way way way cheaper.

Roy


Employee Name Job Title Base Pay
Scott Phillip District Manager $187,393.26
Kitajima Bill Projects Manager $144,870.83
Ramirez Sergio Maintenance Superintendent $139,781.00
Simonetti John Regulatory Compliance Coordinator $126,553.83
Scheidt Robert Assistant Maintenance Superintendent $113,635.21
Hulsmann Robert Pump Facility Supervisor $108,925.18
Bahrami Elizabeth Accountant $108,813.77
Beyer Jed Source Control Inspector $103,844.13
Praturlon Mark Source Control Inspector $103,844.00
Cortez Heath Rehab Field Supervisor $94,658.85
Patino Alberto Field Supervisor $94,658.85
Kinder Richard Field Supervisor $94,658.85
Coca Juan Field Supervisor $94,658.85
Brown Keith Construction Inspector $93,779.84
Chu Charles Pipeline Inspection Tech II $84,611.28
Valentine Orion Rehab Technician $84,611.28
Sanchez George Pump Station Maint Mechanic $84,144.00
Reese Todd Office Manager $83,340.00
Daniels Peggy Sr Admin Aide $81,307.46
Schultz Carrie Admin Aide $74,545.25
Hildebrand Arthur Field Supervisor $72,930.50
Martinez David Maintenance Worker $68,515.91
Ledesma Aurora Information Tech Analyst $65,189.79
Santos Henry Maintenance Worker $64,207.42
Sandoval Ruperto Maintenance Worker $55,636.00
Foret John Maintenance Worker $21,102.78


to see the list online: Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 1, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Roy - Thanks. And what are the NYC comparables?


9 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 1, 2017 at 5:54 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@Peter

Dude, were you that kid in college that asked everybody else to do their projects?

I got the NYC Firefighter numbers for you, I gave you the WBSD numbers....do a little homework and get the NYC Sanitation numbers yourself.

Make sure to compare apples and apples (pun intended) in that NYC does their own CIP, design/builds/operates it's own sewage treatment plants (we don't. Silicon Valley Clean Water operates the own that services the peninsula).

Let us all know what you find out.

And folks the technique just employed by Peter of Objection Handling is called "Deflection". That is where you obfuscate and deflect from an undesirable answer that is not helping your sale in hopes of the buyer forgetting.

Thanks
Roy



10 people like this
Posted by rtw
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 1, 2017 at 5:59 pm

"Deflection" See also: Trump, Donald

Of master, at the foot learn, eh Yoda?


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 1, 2017 at 6:03 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Roy:

what are teh Bay Area Firefighter comparables? Those are what REALLY matter becasue that is what all the unions work against. If the bay area average is X the Menlo Park Firefighters Union is going to ask for X+. Really not that complicated. If we're competing against other bay area fire departments then THOSE are the comparables you should be comparing our firefighters to. NOT NY. We live here, in case you haven't noticed. Have any bay area comparable? MPFPD may be higher, but I bet it isn't by much given they all play off each other for pay raises. But you'd know that if you knew anything about how the fire department and labor relations work. Wouldn't you?


1 person likes this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 1, 2017 at 8:55 pm

This isn't right,
Hope the fire district can get by on this

The county's figures show that property tax revenue for the fire district totaled $41.1 million in fiscal year 2015-16, compared with the combined total of $29.3 million received by the cities of Menlo Park, Atherton and East Palo Alto. Menlo Park's property tax revenues were $14.1 million; Atherton's, $8.6 million; and East Palo Alto's, $6.6 million.

Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Balance the scales
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 1, 2017 at 9:29 pm

Menlo Voter surprised to see you falling on that argument when you have said many times that the same argument cannot be used for MP teachers.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 2, 2017 at 7:46 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Balance:

that is not correct. I have consistently made comparisons and pointed out comparisons of teacher compensation with COMPARABLE districts. Among comparable districts our teachers are among the highest paid. I've never made a comparison, as Roy did, to teachers in New York.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 2, 2017 at 10:08 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

My beliefs are consistent:
1 - Public agencies should live within their means
2 - Public agencies should have a balanced, deficit free budget
3 - Public agencies should budget for and annually fund depreciation of their capital assets
4 - Public agencies should budget for and fund annually their true pension costs
5 - Public agency compensation should be fair and competitive IF the agency has a balanced budget and has funded their depreciation and pension costs


2 people like this
Posted by rtw
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 2, 2017 at 10:25 am

Another comment-er: No mention of "cost effective"?

Cost effective/value to the taxpayer?


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 2, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@Menlo Voter

I did NOT make the comparison. I simply ANSWERED @Bobs question. read the chain.....

Roy


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 2, 2017 at 5:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is a detailed analysis of how your Fire District spends your tax money:

Web Link

How many other local agencies provide such a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report?


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Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 2, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Roy:

ya, you were just answering him. you were agreeing with him.


6 people like this
Posted by Applause to Ms Wood
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 2, 2017 at 8:37 pm

Thank you to Barbara Wood for pointing out discrepencies between salary and budget of the MP Fire District between neighboring cities and also making comparisons with salaries in Bay Area/California cities much larger than MP where we come out way on top. While some may contest comparing MP to NYC I saw it as just a more extreme example of the fact that salaries, etc are much higher in MP than a city that places a different demand on it's Fire Department workforce (a city that also includes subway systems, 1000s of high-rises, just to name a couple of things MP does not have). Our fire fighters are amazing, no one is arguing that I see, the difference here is that the salary/benefits/pension comparables are out of line based on the data we are being presented. I have also seen some hypocrisy here which is quite disappointing. Supporters of this budget overage and high salary use neighboring towns like P.A. to justify their financial decisions, but as soon as another part of the community, who receives a much smaller piece of the property tax pie (whether they have anything to do with what they recieve or not) are attacked for trying to compare themselves to P.A. It can't be both ways. Either MP uses benchmarks for salary, etc with their exact neighbors for all departments and recipients of property tax dollars, or no one does as part of their defense.


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Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardiña
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 3, 2017 at 6:19 am

Roy Thiele-Sardiña is a registered user.

@MEnlo VOter

Please read my response again. That is a statement of FACT, there was no opinion stated. It merely stated the difference between our salaries and pension and that of NYC. simple and accurate.

The comment about CalPers is an opinion based on knowledge of the financial services industry and knowing the compensation of money managers.

Roy


5 people like this
Posted by It is their call
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 4, 2017 at 10:14 am

Fire personnel, like other public safety personnel that place their life on the line for your safety are paid well. I think they should be. Should they be paid out of line with the regional averages? I don't think so. I think you should pay what is necessary to attract and retain quality personnel.

That said, even with all of that, the District is flush with cash. What should they do with it? They should pay down any debt, reduce long term costs and plan for infrastructure needs. Establish a reserve that address potential fluctuations in revenue streams.

That did, they are STILL flush with cash. Now what? Give it back to the taxpayer somehow? (There are legislative ways for them to do this). Share it with other agencies? (Again, there are ways). But to be clear, they are under no legal or moral obligation to do so.

We might think it's unfair or out of balance, but the decisions rest with the elected members of the Fire board to make decisions and take proactive action to address the issue.

It is VERY CLEAR they at least 4 of them do not want to do so.


3 people like this
Posted by Mason
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 4, 2017 at 5:00 pm

@It is their call

Agreed. I would even say the fire district board has a legal and fiduciary duty NOT to share any of its revenue, rather than saying they have no obligation. There are many worthy causes deserving of more money, but it's not the fire district's job to dole out money to those.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 4, 2017 at 6:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" They should pay down any debt, reduce long term costs and plan for infrastructure needs. Establish a reserve that address potential fluctuations in revenue streams. "

This is exactly what your Fire Board does AND it then takes any remaining cash and uses it to pay off/pay down current and predictable pension debt.

This yields a balanced budget and there is no spare cash. And it does not mortgage the future.


Like this comment
Posted by Help Me Understand Something Please
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 6, 2017 at 10:29 pm

I have read this paragraph from the article many times and am having difficulty, based on your comments above Peter Carpenter, understanding the situation. If I am reading the paragraph right the Fire District appears to have about $34-39M left over, depending on how the math is done (all numbers being estimates), in their General Fund. Is the general fund the same as the reserve? Does this amount include money from the Fire District's "big slice of property tax"? Is that the kind of carry over that is held most years? You mention in your comments "This is exactly what your Fire Board does AND it then takes any remaining cash and uses it to pay off/pay down current and predictable pension debt. This yields a balanced budget and there is no spare cash." Thanks in advance for the explanation.

"The fire district started the 2016-17 fiscal year with close to $41.5 million in its general fund and in its adopted budget estimated it would receive total revenues of $43.4 million, with estimated spending of $50.1 million (including nearly $1 million in debt service and $4 million on capital improvements)."


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 7, 2017 at 7:01 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"the Fire District appears to have about $34-39M left over, depending on how the math is done (all numbers being estimates), in their General Fund."

These funds are all generated by property taxes, are annually allocated to specific reserves and are not "left over".

Think of money that you might put into a college fund for your children - it is committed to a specific purpose, not left over.


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Posted by Help Me Understand Something Please
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 7, 2017 at 5:03 pm

Okay....so the Fire District has a annual $34-39M that is something like a "college fund"? What is the specific purpose then of those property tax dollars?


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 7, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" What is the specific purpose then of those property tax dollars?"

The District's allocation of funds to its reserve accounts are detailed on page 7 of the Fire District's Treasurer's Report dated 7 Feb 2017:


Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Help Me Understand Something Please
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 7, 2017 at 11:41 pm

Here is the actual link, that one does not work.

Web Link

$27.5M in capital improvements?? Big number for workers comp too...


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 8, 2017 at 7:22 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"$27.5M in capital improvements?"

Yep - each new fire station/replacement costs $10-15 million.
Or would you rather have the $130 million of construction debt that MPCSD has?

"Big number for workers comp too.." That is simply reflective of the fact that firefighting is hard and dangerous work and injuries are more common than in most other professions.


2 people like this
Posted by Help Me Understand Something Please
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 14, 2017 at 1:27 pm

"Yep - each new fire station/replacement costs $10-15 million."
Who decides when these expenses happen? Does the community get to vote?

I'm not sure what MPCSD construction debt has to do with capital expenses for the Fire District, except maybe because both entities receive property taxes from the same community. But, I am confused about what you mean to be saying when you reference a *construction debt*. I went to the MPCSD Budget and don't see anything about a $130M construction debt. I am guessing what you are referring to is the total $ amount of all the bonds that have been passed for all the MPCSD schools over the years. Those bonds, which were voted for by the community, were for major additions and work at all 4 elementary schools, the new Laurel Upper Campus, and the new Hillview campus. That construction was done to create safe spaces for the community's children to attend school, and to create actual physical space for the major enrollment increase seen in our community over the years. And by law those bonds, which were earmarked for construction, are separate from the MPCSD Budget and can only be used for facilities. So...your statement about a $130M construction debt for MPCSD is actually misleading.


2 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Feb 14, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

MPCSD voters originally approved $91,100,000 in 2006 and $23,000,000 in 2014. That's $114,100,000 which was refinanced with outstanding debt now at $131,000,000. That is paid back from ad-valorem property taxes. These bonds will be retired in 2043.

This is what Peter meant when he used the term "mortgage the future". MPFD is not going back to the taxpayers with a parcel tax to bail out CalPers.


Like this comment
Posted by Help Me Understand Something Please
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 16, 2017 at 10:00 pm

Refinancing actually saves money.

Still waiting on this one...

"Yep - each new fire station/replacement costs $10-15 million."
Who decides when these expenses happen? Does the community get to vote?


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 17, 2017 at 7:09 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

""Yep - each new fire station/replacement costs $10-15 million."
Who decides when these expenses happen? Does the community get to vote?"

The Fire Board decides based on the age of he existing station and the changes in demand brought on by new developments in the area served by each station.

Yes, the community gets to vote - it elects all five of the Fire Board members who then act as the community's elected representatives.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 17, 2017 at 9:08 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"And by law those bonds, which were earmarked for construction, are separate from the MPCSD Budget and can only be used for facilities. So...your statement about a $130M construction debt for MPCSD is actually misleading."

You own statement proves that you are wrong = "can only be used for facilities" . Facilities ARE construction!

In contrast your Fire District funds its construction out of its current revenues and has neither parcel taxes or construction bonds.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 17, 2017 at 9:24 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Questions have been asked regarding the Fire District's effort at gender diversity.

Here is an excellent news article:

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 17, 2017 at 9:25 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And here is an excellent Staff Report on the diversity issue:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Help Me Understand Something Please
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 17, 2017 at 2:15 pm

I believe you are intentionally trying to move around my question. I never implied there was a parcel tax or bond for fire district construction/facilities. I simply asked who decides WHEN this gets done, and does the community get to vote on it. You are saying the elected officials get to decide because the community gave them their vote, so that is how the community's voice is heard. You are saying the $10-15M does not come from parcel taxes/bond measures, again, I did not say or imply it did. So specifically where does the $10-15M come from? You mention current revenue. Is that from property taxes?


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 17, 2017 at 2:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"So specifically where does the $10-15M come from? You mention current revenue. Is that from property taxes?"


Yes. As noted above :" What is the specific purpose then of those property tax dollars?"

The District's allocation of funds to its reserve accounts are detailed on page 7 of the Fire District's Treasurer's Report dated 7 Feb 2017.

************************

I think that getting you to your understand is beyond my ability to help.


2 people like this
Posted by Help Me Understand Something Please
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 17, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Mr Carpenter, I'm sorry you are frustrated with me, but I see you all over this newspaper commenting about organizations that you are not in leadership for because you say you are a member of the community too. Well, so am I, I'm also a homeowner in this community who pays a very very large property tax bill every year, and when I see the wonderful work of Ms Wood here highlighting the skew in property tax allocation to the Fire District (whether we like it or not based on decisions made over 30 years ago) I get frustrated too. I read articles here in the Almanac about roads, safety, public transportation, libraries, schools and children having to fight for/defend their request for money to support their services because their property tax allocation doesn't cover their needs. And while it may frustrate you, I will continue to ask questions about multi million dollar Fire District projects being paid for with my property tax dollars. Thank you Ms Wood, I look forward to your next article.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 17, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Feel free to keep asking questions but I will only answer them once so please reread my answers before asking a question that I have already answered - like that new fire stations are paid for from current revenues as detailed in the cited Treasurer's report.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 17, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"request for money to support their services because their property tax allocation doesn't cover their needs."


No, the problem is that those agencies refuse to live within their revenue. They simply spend all of their current revenues hiring more and more people and then they claim their "needs" for buildings and critical programs must be meet by new taxes.


Like this comment
Posted by Help Me Understand Something Please
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 17, 2017 at 9:17 pm

I'm sorry, but to quote the article above:

"Essentially, the fire district receives more in property taxes for providing emergency medical (excluding transportation), fire and other emergency services (hazardous waste spills and rescues among them) than all three municipalities combined receive for providing city services such as police, parks and recreation, streets, and land-use planning (plus the library in Menlo Park)."

If the fire district receives more property tax money than other recipients, and other recipients combined, the victory of the Fire District having extra money is a hollow one. To quote Director Bernstein:

"Or, as fire board director Mr. Bernstein put it: "We as a district lucked out and happen to be very well-funded.""




2 people like this
Posted by Willows Man
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 17, 2017 at 10:52 pm

The other agencies can't live within their tax revenues because the Fire District takes a disproportionate share of the overall tax collections. The Fire District's profligate spending is an embarrasement to our community. I would think it's Board members would be too ashamed to critique other agencies that receive significantly less tax dollars, but have a more important societal mission.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 18, 2017 at 6:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The other agencies can't live within their tax revenues because the Fire District takes a disproportionate share of the overall tax collections."


That is like saying you cannot afford to pay your rent because your neighbor makes more money than you do! If they made less money it would have no impact on your income.

All the agencies involved have been getting the exact same percentage of property taxes for the last 29 years so why can some of them no longer live within their revenue means? Primarily because they have kept adding staff whose salaries and fully funded pensions they cannot afford to pay.

"The Fire District's profligate spending ..."
Can you provide any specific examples of such profligate spending?


2 people like this
Posted by Lame example
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 18, 2017 at 6:18 pm

The other agencies can't live within their tax revenues because the Fire District takes a disproportionate share of the overall tax collections."


That is like saying you cannot afford to pay your rent because your neighbor makes more money than you do! If they made less money it would have no impact on your income.


No. It's like saying you can't pay rent because your business partner hogs all the prodits.


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Posted by Lame example
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 18, 2017 at 6:19 pm

*profits


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 18, 2017 at 6:30 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If your business partner hogs all the profits then you signed a bad deal.

The property tax allocations were determined by Article XIIIA of the state Constitution, commonly referred to as Proposition 13, not by the Fire Board - that is the deal that the citizens voted for and "signed".

If the citizens no longer want Article XIIIA of the state Constitution then they can vote to change that deal.


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Posted by FYI
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 18, 2017 at 11:26 pm

This is a matter of unconstrained (Fire District) vs underfunded budgets (In 2015-16 the combined total for the three cities in the district: Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and Atherton received $11.8M less than the Fire District - B.Wood).

Prop 13, Article XIIIA, has been attempted to be changed by many people and organizations in the state of California for years. That battle rears it's head in almost every election cycle. One of the biggest road blocks to change is the AARP.

Here's the example of the main problem as explained by Warren Buffet in 2004 when using the example of the two homes he owns in Laguna Beach, CA. He used this to explain why there is such a challenge getting Prop 13 changed:

"The first Laguna Beach house is a property that I bought in the early 1970s. It has a current market value of about $4 million and, because of the limitations embodied in Proposition 13, carried taxes of only $2,264 in 2003 vs. $2,241 in 2002.
The second house, located just in back of the first, is one that I purchased in the mid-1990s. It has a market value of about $2 million and, simply because I bought it later than the first, carried taxes of $12,002 in 2003 vs. $11,877 in 2002."

Prop 13, Article XIIIA, put such a favorable bias to early homeowners, now mostly seniors and likely members of AARP, and then redistributed the remaining property tax money in such a way that many recipients received more, exponentially, money than others, and it set off many issues in the state.

There are many many people, municipalities and organizations who would love to see Prop 13 changed. Even willing to negotiate with those against changing it, like the AARP, however, to date it has not been close to possible.



3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2017 at 7:16 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

FYI - Thank you for these additional facts.

As noted the Fire District did not and does not determine its tax rate.

The Fire Board's job, as the elected representatives of the citizens whom it serves, is to utilize the funds received in the most cost effective manner and to fully cover its costs, including depreciation and pension liabilities, from it current property tax revenues.

The Fire District has a balanced budget, NO parcel tax and NO capital Improvement bond and a superb record of service delivery.


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Posted by FYI
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 19, 2017 at 7:44 am

Peter you are welcome. While I appreciate and certainly value the work of the Fire District please understand my point. The Fire District's ability to operate a balanced budget with NO parcel tax and NO bond measures is because of it's unconstrained budget. This unconstrained budget was set in motion with changes Prop 13 brought to the State. I have to wonder where the support would go in the Fire District if the State finally took any ground to repeal/change/modify Prop 13. I certainly think I know how the underfunded budget groups would feel.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2017 at 7:52 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The Fire District's ability to operate a balanced budget with NO parcel tax and NO bond measures is because of it's unconstrained budget."


Wrong - The Fire District's ability to operate a balanced budget with NO parcel tax and NO bond measures is because of it's WELL CONTROLLED budget.

Other agencies did very well under Prop 13 for over 20 years until they decided that the their run up in property tax revenues due to unsustainable increases in real estate prices should be used to hire more people rather than reserved for building replacement, pension liabilities and economic downturns.

If the Fire District has simply hired 30 more firefighters it would be in the same place as these less carefully managed agencies.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2017 at 8:05 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Look at the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) of the so-called underfunded agencies and compare them to the Fire District's CAFR.


Web Link

The first problem will be that most of these agencies don't even bother to produce a CAFR.

If they do have a CAFR you will quickly discover that they afre spending almost all of their current revenues on current expenses, mostly salaries, and making no provision for paying their real costs of operating.


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Posted by FYI
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 19, 2017 at 8:23 am

The decline in California's roads, schools, hospitals, mental health services, increase in jail occupancy, to name a few, can be traced back to Prop 13. It was a domino effect. I am sure there were some agencies who made mistakes, but not all and not in the way you are suggesting. I want to be clear that I respect the Fire District and the work that they do. I also applaud you as a Board member for supporting its decisions. What I challenge here, and going forward, is until the slices of the property tax pie are balanced praise for not needing to ask the community for help to provide the best for its citizens is not given to an agency that is granted a situation where their budget is unconstrained.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2017 at 8:29 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

FYI - You keep ignoring the facts- the Fire District's budget is NOT unconstrained.

Please read the CAFR and show exactly where the Fire District's "unconstrained revenues" are coming from.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2017 at 8:49 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And remember that all of the other "challenged agencies" get sales taxes, hotel occupancy taxes, parcel taxes and bond revenue - none of which flow to the Fire District.


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2017 at 3:07 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

it is important to realize the cities and towns have other sources of revenue to support the services that they provide whereas the Fire District operates primarily on property tax revenues:

Atherton's General Fund revenue for FY 2016/17 is projected to be $13,434,961.

Menlo Park's is $81,443,948.

East Palo Alto's is $$19.7 million.

The total general fund revenues for these three jurisdictions is over $115 million vs $43 million for the Fire District.

if a proportion share of the County's expenditures for the unincorporated areas cover by the fire district were included the total County/Cities/Town general revenues for the area served by the Fire District would be over $125 million or about THREE times what the Fire District receives.


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