News

Higher utilities rates to fund city services?

City contemplating $19.6 million transfer of utilities funds into general fund -- largest transfer in city history

Rocked by a dry weather spell and dwindling reserves, the city's utility department is poised to raise electricity rates this summer.

But while Mother Nature may shoulder some of the blame for forthcoming rate increases, a city practice of transferring money from its utilities department funds to its general fund could also spike residents' utility bills.

A new staff report indicates the city plans to take a much larger chunk of cash from utilities in fiscal year 2010 than in years past.

The transfer is, in many ways, like a dividend paid by the utilities department to the entity that created and owns it, the City of Palo Alto.

Over the past century, the amounts transferred from the water, electric and gas funds to the city's general fund have been steadily rising, largely reflecting the city's overall growth and need to fund its services. (View annual transfers from the utility fund to the general fund since 1909 (PDF))

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This year, however, the dividend is slated to swell by an unprecedented amount. On Feb. 4, city staff presented a five-year projection to the Utilities Advisory Commission, showing a sharp spike next year in the amount transferred from utilities to the general fund.

Under the tentative plan, which is subject to change in the coming weeks, the city would draw $13.3 million from the electric fund in 2010 and $6.3 million from the gas fund, for a total transfer of $19.6 million. The city plans to take no money from the water fund this year.

The numbers represent a $4.5 million surge from the amount transferred in 2009 – and would represent the largest increase in the city's history, if adopted.

Over the past decade, the year-to-year increases generally ranged from roughly $300,000 to about $500,000 (between 2008 and 2009, the total transfer spiked from $14.6 to $15.1 million).

Prior to that, the transfer amount held steady from year to year (from 1997 to 2000, the city shifted $11.8 million annually from utilities to the general fund) or even went down (by $1.3 million between 1990 and 1991). But the overall trend has been toward gradually larger numbers.

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City Manager James Keene said the transfer amount is one of many factors he and staff are considering in putting the city's budget together, which is facing a projected $8 million shortfall in 2010.

Keene said his main goal is to make sure the cumulative impact of the various cost increases and budget cuts doesn't hit the residents too hard.

"It's important that we take a holistic perspective on impacts of all of the various revenues and costs and rate impacts on our customers and citizens," Keene told the Weekly.

"As we are putting together recommendations, our recommendations will be ultimately informed by cumulative impacts."

Keene noted that staff showed the Utilities Advisory Commission numbers that represented the maximum transfer that could be made and that the actual transfer will likely be less than the tentative figures indicate.

Director of Utilities Valerie Fong said the city is in the process of updating the methodology used in coming up with the transfer amount. She said staff will present fresh numbers to the commission in March, reflecting various budget options. She also said staff is seriously considering the commission's opposition to sharp rate increases. Fong called the transfer figures shown to the commission "extremely preliminary."

But Commissioner Dick Rosenbaum said he wished staff was more candid about how they arrived at their transfer numbers. The commission had no involvement in any discussions on changing the transfer amount, he noted. And City Council member Yiaway Yeh, the council's liaison to the Utilities Advisory Commission, said the council had not dealt with the subject either.

"Under those circumstances, for Utility to propose a $7 million increase in transfer to the general fund is, in my opinion, just beyond belief," Rosenbaum said, referring to staff proposals to increase transfer from the electric fund by $4.2 million and to increase transfer from the gas fund by $3.1 million. "To do so without discussion and to tell us next month that you'll provide the numbers, it's just totally unacceptable."

Rosenbaum was one of several commissioners who expressed concern about staff projections for rate increases in 2010. With electricity rates currently expected to surge by 12 percent to 21 percent starting in July, commissioners John Melton and Asher Waldfogel urged staff to look for other ways to keep the rate increases as low and gradual as possible. Rosenbaum pointed to the tough economic climate and questioned whether the proposed transfers were justified.

"Given that the transfer is to some degree arbitrary, one has to wonder what has to go on here," Rosenbaum said at a Feb. 4 meeting.

"In this difficult year, is the city really going to tell the ratepayers that we need $7 million more because of some arcane methodology?" he added.

Keene said staff will present the Utilities Advisory Commission and the council's Finance Committee a range of options next month, and discuss the methodology used to arrive at each of the options.

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Higher utilities rates to fund city services?

City contemplating $19.6 million transfer of utilities funds into general fund -- largest transfer in city history

by / Palo Alto Online

Uploaded: Wed, Feb 11, 2009, 9:30 pm

Rocked by a dry weather spell and dwindling reserves, the city's utility department is poised to raise electricity rates this summer.

But while Mother Nature may shoulder some of the blame for forthcoming rate increases, a city practice of transferring money from its utilities department funds to its general fund could also spike residents' utility bills.

A new staff report indicates the city plans to take a much larger chunk of cash from utilities in fiscal year 2010 than in years past.

The transfer is, in many ways, like a dividend paid by the utilities department to the entity that created and owns it, the City of Palo Alto.

Over the past century, the amounts transferred from the water, electric and gas funds to the city's general fund have been steadily rising, largely reflecting the city's overall growth and need to fund its services. (View annual transfers from the utility fund to the general fund since 1909 (PDF))

This year, however, the dividend is slated to swell by an unprecedented amount. On Feb. 4, city staff presented a five-year projection to the Utilities Advisory Commission, showing a sharp spike next year in the amount transferred from utilities to the general fund.

Under the tentative plan, which is subject to change in the coming weeks, the city would draw $13.3 million from the electric fund in 2010 and $6.3 million from the gas fund, for a total transfer of $19.6 million. The city plans to take no money from the water fund this year.

The numbers represent a $4.5 million surge from the amount transferred in 2009 – and would represent the largest increase in the city's history, if adopted.

Over the past decade, the year-to-year increases generally ranged from roughly $300,000 to about $500,000 (between 2008 and 2009, the total transfer spiked from $14.6 to $15.1 million).

Prior to that, the transfer amount held steady from year to year (from 1997 to 2000, the city shifted $11.8 million annually from utilities to the general fund) or even went down (by $1.3 million between 1990 and 1991). But the overall trend has been toward gradually larger numbers.

City Manager James Keene said the transfer amount is one of many factors he and staff are considering in putting the city's budget together, which is facing a projected $8 million shortfall in 2010.

Keene said his main goal is to make sure the cumulative impact of the various cost increases and budget cuts doesn't hit the residents too hard.

"It's important that we take a holistic perspective on impacts of all of the various revenues and costs and rate impacts on our customers and citizens," Keene told the Weekly.

"As we are putting together recommendations, our recommendations will be ultimately informed by cumulative impacts."

Keene noted that staff showed the Utilities Advisory Commission numbers that represented the maximum transfer that could be made and that the actual transfer will likely be less than the tentative figures indicate.

Director of Utilities Valerie Fong said the city is in the process of updating the methodology used in coming up with the transfer amount. She said staff will present fresh numbers to the commission in March, reflecting various budget options. She also said staff is seriously considering the commission's opposition to sharp rate increases. Fong called the transfer figures shown to the commission "extremely preliminary."

But Commissioner Dick Rosenbaum said he wished staff was more candid about how they arrived at their transfer numbers. The commission had no involvement in any discussions on changing the transfer amount, he noted. And City Council member Yiaway Yeh, the council's liaison to the Utilities Advisory Commission, said the council had not dealt with the subject either.

"Under those circumstances, for Utility to propose a $7 million increase in transfer to the general fund is, in my opinion, just beyond belief," Rosenbaum said, referring to staff proposals to increase transfer from the electric fund by $4.2 million and to increase transfer from the gas fund by $3.1 million. "To do so without discussion and to tell us next month that you'll provide the numbers, it's just totally unacceptable."

Rosenbaum was one of several commissioners who expressed concern about staff projections for rate increases in 2010. With electricity rates currently expected to surge by 12 percent to 21 percent starting in July, commissioners John Melton and Asher Waldfogel urged staff to look for other ways to keep the rate increases as low and gradual as possible. Rosenbaum pointed to the tough economic climate and questioned whether the proposed transfers were justified.

"Given that the transfer is to some degree arbitrary, one has to wonder what has to go on here," Rosenbaum said at a Feb. 4 meeting.

"In this difficult year, is the city really going to tell the ratepayers that we need $7 million more because of some arcane methodology?" he added.

Keene said staff will present the Utilities Advisory Commission and the council's Finance Committee a range of options next month, and discuss the methodology used to arrive at each of the options.

Comments

JP
Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 12:07 am
JP, Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 12:07 am

Where is "Brian Wilson" now?! I knew they were hiking up the rates for some reason. This MUST be illegal in some way or another. Palo Alto is going down the drain lately.


musical
Palo Verde
on Feb 12, 2009 at 3:30 am
musical, Palo Verde
on Feb 12, 2009 at 3:30 am

Whoa, so this is how initiatives like Proposition 13 get started.

What happens to the electric fund if everyone is prompted to go solar? Or will the city make the permitting process impossible?


Casey
Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 5:07 am
Casey, Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 5:07 am

I think that if CPAU raises every household's utilities rate by $50/month for 4 years, that should be enough money to build a new police HQ. In this case, I wonder why we even needed to vote for the library bond last fall when they could have just hiked the electric & gas rates w/o having to seek voter consent?

re: musical

I think the closer analog would be Proposition 1A (2006) which protected state fuel taxes from being used or any purpose other than transportation improvements.

Might have to take a look at the Division of Rate Payer Advocate Site - Web Link - to see if this is legit.


YouShouldKnow
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2009 at 7:11 am
YouShouldKnow, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2009 at 7:11 am

Again, CPA is up to something with the randomly spiked utility bills that random people are receiving. Bills that do not in any way reflect increased usage.

I cannot afford $50 a month to pay for a new police building or anything else. Take that money from the frivolous expenditures this City is so fond of.


resident
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 12, 2009 at 7:20 am
resident, Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 12, 2009 at 7:20 am

Jay Thorwaldson, you really need to have the Weekly investigate how utilities "buys" their gas.


Marvin
Charleston Gardens
on Feb 12, 2009 at 8:22 am
Marvin, Charleston Gardens
on Feb 12, 2009 at 8:22 am

This attempt to fund city services using utility money is not surprising given our city council and what they consider important and the disdain they show for regular citizens and the opinions they express.


Another PA Sucker
Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2009 at 8:35 am
Another PA Sucker, Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2009 at 8:35 am

The transfer of funds from PAU to the City's general fund always has been legally problematical. Under Prop 13 and follow on voter-approved initiatives, a popular vote of the affected electorate generally is required to raise taxes. Moreover recategorizing government revenues that otherwise would be "taxes" as "fees", etc. for the purpose of avoiding the required popular vote is also generally prohibited,

Here in PA, we see the textbook case of the kind of civic evil these laws were meant to address. Without a vote, or even without much public discussion or debate, city staff comes up with a huge increase of the amount that the PAU ratepayers (who are largely the same people known as "taxpayers" in the normal world) are expected to transfer from their bank accounts to the city coffers.

It's probably not coincidental that the same city staff proposing these money grabs is the prime beneficiary of this stealth tax rise. City salaries and benefits are the biggest element in the city budget by far (over 3/4 of the total).

While you're freezing in the dark next year trying to conserve energy - and watching your bank account being depleted paying the rates that will be necessary to fund this transfer, you can contemplate the fact that the money you're losing is being used to fund those same people who proposed this when they retire at 55 with benefits that you can only dream about.


anon
College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2009 at 9:05 am
anon, College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2009 at 9:05 am

Its easy -- I am moving out of Palo Alto (I rent). There are plenty of other nice towns in the valley with lower rent - both actual and stealth taxes in the form utility fees.


Jo Ann
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:28 am
Jo Ann, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:28 am

Ridiculous. How do we stop them?


Concerned
Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:28 am
Concerned, Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:28 am

To put the financial chart in perspective, it would be useful to know the fraction of total utility income that is transfered to the city's general fund. Presumably the total costs paid to the utility have also increased, for example maybe the $22,000 transfered in 1909 was a huge fraction of the total money charged the residents, and might be a bigger fraction than is proposed to transfer now. But somehow I bet we are transfering a bigger and bigger fraction to run the city as we replace taxable entities (e.g., Rickeys) with houses full of people who want services.


Concerned
Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:28 am
Concerned, Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:28 am

To put the financial chart in perspective, it would be useful to know the fraction of total utility income that is transfered to the city's general fund. Presumably the total costs paid to the utility have also increased, for example maybe the $22,000 transfered in 1909 was a huge fraction of the total money charged the residents, and might be a bigger fraction than is proposed to transfer now. But somehow I bet we are transfering a bigger and bigger fraction to run the city as we replace taxable entities (e.g., Rickeys) with houses full of people who want services.


Oldtimer
Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:37 am
Oldtimer, Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:37 am

The City purchased a multi-million dollar software and hardware package that is way over budget and continues to eat money.


Need To Know
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:40 am
Need To Know, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:40 am

Tell the City Council that this is simply unacceptable:

[email protected]


Chuck
Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 11:09 am
Chuck, Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 11:09 am

The utilities rate increases are out of control!

Part of the problem with this utilities “taxation” is that our local government has a short sighted attitude about the homeowners. City staff has witnessed a high increase in our property values over the years. They think we’re all rich.

It is true that the market appreciation for many homeowners has been a nice windfall. But for those who bought into Palo Alto 30 or 40 years ago it was because we wanted to make this city our home -- not some get rich scheme.

They should realize that before any of us can put that appreciation money in our pocket -- we would have to sell our property. Otherwise we can only deal with these higher living costs out of cash flow.

And for seniors it’s not just the utilities cost of living increases. Each year we are also confronted with increases in property taxes and medical expenses. And now with the California State budget crisis, we’re looking at the possibility of higher sales taxes and other state imposed fee increases.

We can’t really avoid these necessary expenses, and so every year we have to make adjustments within our fixed income. So it’s not a matter of living here like a king -- it’s a matter of survival or moving out of Palo Alto!


Mike
College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2009 at 11:23 am
Mike, College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2009 at 11:23 am

Sell PAU, or, at least do the diligence to find out what it will bring in the equity markets. Why is Council avoiding this? Maybe it's a bad idea; maybe it's a good idea; maybe it's an average idea that could be leveraged in unique ways. Who knows? Why aren't we finding out? Where is the responsibility of Council on this issue? Council is charged with managing the future of our city, and maximizing physical assets, public safety, etc. etc.

*If* PAU is worth what some say it is (roughly $700M-$1B), the city could take sufficient money from the sale and bank it, in order to guarantee a return to the general fund that is equal to what PAU is paying in *now*. The surplus over that amount would be used to find needed infrastructure and a community fund to solarize as many homes as possible. Regarding the latter, all kinds of guarantees and *help* from the prospective buyer *even PG&E) could guarantee no rate increases for a few years until the solar portion has been largely put into play. In fact, why not go solar in the same way that we have proposed undergrounding utilities? Simply place a lien against the future sale of a home that's equal to solarizing that home. PA residents might actually be able to produce enough electricity to achieve a surplus back to the grid, and have the electric company that owns PAU paying back into the general fund.

There is no longer any reason to investigate the possibility of selling PAU, as one of many solutions to getting out act together in a way that sustains us into the future.


Mike
College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2009 at 11:24 am
Mike, College Terrace
on Feb 12, 2009 at 11:24 am

That should have read "There is no longer any reason to NOT investigate the possibility of selling PAU, as one of many solutions to getting out act together in a way that sustains us into the future."


Cheer Up
Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2009 at 11:34 am
Cheer Up, Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2009 at 11:34 am

"you can contemplate the fact that the money you're losing is being used to fund those same people who proposed this when they retire at 55 with benefits that you can only dream about."

As you sit in your freezing house conserving money on electricity and gas, it will warm your heart to know the city gives fat bonuses to city workers.


Richard C. Placone
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2009 at 12:31 pm
Richard C. Placone, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2009 at 12:31 pm

I agree that this matter of constantly increasing utility rates, even to the extent of producing large reserve surpluses, and then transferring ever increasing amounts to the General Fund, is frustrating and may well be illegal. If nothing else, it is immoral and unethical. Like most of those complaining here, we too are freezing at home, with the evenings somewhat like living in a dark cave and the thermostat set at a cool 62 degrees, when the furnace is even on, which is not often. And like many others here, we too have seen our winter electric and gas rates spike, in spite of the fact that this year we used less than last year.

But what to do about it? While this forum gives us all a chance to vent our spleens, it does nothing to get the attention of the staff or the council. By their own admission, they rarely, if ever, read these blogs. The only way to have an effect is that if ALL OF US send copies of these blogs to the city council and the city managers. Only if a substantial number of residents voice their objections will we ever get action. There are many good ideas expressed here. But the council needs to hear them. I write all the time - carefully researched, thoughtful and usually polite, if pointed, letters - to no avail, because I am but one of a very few. So everyone, get busy, make a copy of your post, or better, write a letter and send it to the council and to the city manager and his minions. That is our only hoope of redressing these ills short of marching on city hall with torches and pitchforks which, afterall, is so unlike Palo Alto.

Richard Placone
Barron Park


YouShouldKnow
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2009 at 12:41 pm
YouShouldKnow, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2009 at 12:41 pm

BINGO Chuck! My feelings exactly. 35 year resident, not a stop long enough to school my kids than flee type.

There have been more and more comments in the last two months both about the rising rates while natural gas rates actually went down, no low use bonus incentives, random astronomical billings with no accurate reflection of actual use and yet, NO INVESTIGATION BY ANY PAPER! Why not?


YouShouldKnow
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2009 at 12:50 pm
YouShouldKnow, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Oh yeah and bounce the City Council! They are useless. Between the utility debacle and possible malfeasance, they are also approving building projects out of hand. Even these residential projects are out of bounds. Do you realize there isn't anywhere in this City you can go and rest peacefully during the day if you are home sick without hearing incessant hammering, powerwashing, loud construction machinery and trucks? Palo Alto really IS going to hell in a handbasket. It is becoming a City that is tolerable by wealthy people with deep pockets who are never home or in town, thus paying exorbitant utility bills, escaping construction noise on almost any block, and not being here to drive around town while idling in increased traffic staring at the ugliness that is the JCC and Rickeys!


Great Benefit
Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 12:56 pm
Great Benefit, Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 12:56 pm

FAT Bonuses??? Are bonuses legal for a public entity? Isn't this "gifting of public funds" ???


excellent!
Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2009 at 1:00 pm
excellent!, Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Yeah, this is fantastic! Well down City Council. At last we start getting taxed equally. Push the rates even higher!

I am a Palo Alto resident and I approve this recommendation.


Casey
Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 1:02 pm
Casey, Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Tell the City Council? Short of suing the city to stop passing stealth taxes as utility rate increases, I'm not sure what e-mailing the council will do.


YouShouldKnow
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2009 at 1:17 pm
YouShouldKnow, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Prop 13 is over 30 years old. Get over it. Our utility bill should not be a tax.


excellent!
Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2009 at 1:30 pm
excellent!, Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2009 at 1:30 pm

You want the services? You need to pay for them! Hurts doesn't it?


Marvin
Charleston Gardens
on Feb 12, 2009 at 1:43 pm
Marvin, Charleston Gardens
on Feb 12, 2009 at 1:43 pm

we are willing to pay for our services what we object to is the "head in clouds" council lead by Klein, Kishimoto, Drekmeier, Morton et al "spending" our money and extravagant staff bonuses, consultants, $500,000 contributions to senior games, Destination of PA campaigns, Color of PA debacles and other misuse of our money.


excellent!
Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2009 at 2:03 pm
excellent!, Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Read the posts, people are complaining about this tax. Only a few posts complaining about how it is being spent. You have residents running up and gorging themselves on the food but walking away as soon as the bill arrives. Time for everyone to pay.

This is the best thing for this city.


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 2:53 pm
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2009 at 2:53 pm

MAny of the city "services" we pay for are in the animal husbandry sense of the word.


Jake
another community
on Feb 12, 2009 at 3:23 pm
Jake, another community
on Feb 12, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Marvin, great comment! Many of the residents of Palo Alto want every program known to man that a municipal goverment can possibly provide! then they complain when they find out its costs money. Look around people what other City anywhere provides the programs this City does? really?
The Council needs to look at the programs and departments that don't generate money or pay for themselves. Many departments are re couping monies back through fees or billing. But many programs and departments contribute little if any money.
Obviously some programs and departments are needed and provide quality of life plus's, etc. But the Council and City Manager need to look hard at the ones that are just costing the tax payers more money every year.


StopTheCityCouncil
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2009 at 3:53 pm
StopTheCityCouncil, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Ditto Marvin. YOU re read the posts excellent! The posts are not happy with the tax increase because they are only being instated to pay for stupidity in spending past, and for stupidity in spending future. Most of us, especially in this economy, don't have the money to fund someone elses stupid decisions. As someone else said, you must be bitter about Prop. 13.


excellent!
Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2009 at 4:10 pm
excellent!, Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2009 at 4:10 pm

No problem with prop 13. It certainly helps me, I've been here a while. I do have a problem with beneficiaries of prop 13 that then cry foul when asked to pay for the services they're using as you can see all through this thread.

The bill's due, guys, and this is the most equitable means.


George`
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2009 at 6:25 pm
George`, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2009 at 6:25 pm

NO WAY, NO HOW. NO NO NO.

This is a crime. NO NO NO. You cannot do this. You will be impeached council. NO NO NO. NO WAY.


Chuck
Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 6:52 pm
Chuck, Midtown
on Feb 12, 2009 at 6:52 pm

What? Sounds like “profits” to me!

It’s clear that the Utilities have been transferring money to the City’s General Fund for years. The amount for this year is an estimated $19.6 million, and it would be the largest proposed transfer ever.

For whatever you want to call the monies, it’s no different than a business placing its excess proceeds in the bank where it’s called a “profit.”

Would the courts rule such transfers as “profits?” And aren’t the city and utilities non-profit organizations? Wouldn’t the transfers be inconsistent with their non-profit status? Wouldn’t “profits” in this case be illegal?


FoolsGold
another community
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:02 pm
FoolsGold, another community
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:02 pm

Once again the press has all of the wrong info regarding the transfer of funds. I did the research. Just go to the website, and search. If you call to ask for the info, you will just get the run -around! Sad but true. I know the website is Ugly, and may be intimidating to some, but if you spend a little time searching you will find all the info you need. What you should really be concern about is the fraud being perpetrated out at the Municipal Service Center. I would be more concerned about a person that was not train or certified working on a gas line on my street. Or near my Childs school. I guess it won't matter much when there is a huge natural gas explosion. The last thing on your mind will be your bill!


YouShouldKnow
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2009 at 3:53 am
YouShouldKnow, Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2009 at 3:53 am

Profiteering? Sounds right.


Shakespeare
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2009 at 9:20 am
Shakespeare, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2009 at 9:20 am

How doth thou wasteth?
Let me count the ways.

Thou wasteth by allowing our land and our buildings to fall into ruin from neglect

Thou wasteth on games for the aged, to which they will come whether thou sponsor or no, and in dorms will they stay to save their ducats.

Thou wasteth on “The Color of Palo Alto.” Seven long years gone and still the greenest of greens is not yet chosen

Thou wasteth on statuary, when Lo, the citizenry doth love its venerable fountain of blue waters

Thou wasteth on a tunnel, from which one can exit in but one direction

Thou wasteth on the empire of Enron, a wealthy estate which needeth not our hard-earned taxes.

Thou wasteth on touting thy city as a destination for travelers, spreading false tales of winter merriments when there is naught but pricey taverns to divert them, yet none so tempting as our sister city of the Golden Gate

Thou wasteth on the mistress of theatre, who counted not her pennies yet traveled royally

Thou wasteth on cages for thy beasts, when lo these creatures would fare better unconfined

Thou wasteth by enriching the Lords and Ladies of the castle with excess gold, when verily these are already well-compensated for their labors

Thou wasteth the inheritance of our children and our children’s children by spending more than is in our coffers, shackling us and our progeny to years of debt

Thou wasteth on a castle keep for bailiffs which the citizens can ill-afford

Thou wasteth on a courtier to bring sustainability, yet by reckless spending thou doth ensure our finances cannot be sustained

Thou wasteth thy breath on hollow praise for thy kinsmen in council chambers, though none are worthy

Thy spendthrift ways are the curse of our fair city.
Lord, Lord! to see what folly reigns in us!


Kate
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2009 at 9:52 am
Kate, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2009 at 9:52 am

EVERYBODY has a Prop 13 house. Read the rules. The new residents who bought a $1.5M house last year, bought it from a resident who bought it for $900K fifteen years ago who bought it from a resident who paid $500 twenty years ago who bought it from someone who paid $250K 25 years ago who bought it from someone who bought it prior to 1978 who paid $35K who bought it from an original owner, a WWII vet who paid $13K in 1950.
EVERYBODY has a Prop 13 house. REad the rules. Its the commercial property than can be transferred in some cases without incurring the 1% of the sales price new property tax.
So please keep Prop 13 out of this.


long time resident
Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2009 at 1:56 pm
long time resident, Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2009 at 1:56 pm

STOP

CAN WE HAVE SOMEONE WITH INTELLIGENCE AND THINKING LOOK AT WHAT YOU ARE DOING TO PALO ALTO

WE HAVE REDUCED SERVICES-INCREASE UTILITY BILLS-CITY OF PALO ALTO EMPLOYEES WITH BENEFITS THAT SURPASS REASON IN THESE TIMES AND INSULT AFTER INSULT TO THE RESIDENTS WITH THESE TYPE ACTIONS TO LOOK FOR MORE MONEY AND NOT USE THE FUNDS WE HAVE WISELY-


WILL THIS HELP SELL HOUSES - ATTACT RENTERS - ETC ETC

COULD SOMEONE THINK THIS OUT COMPLETELY PLEASE


anonymous
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2009 at 4:30 pm
anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2009 at 4:30 pm

'Shakespeare' is hilarious!


Excellent!
Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2009 at 4:41 pm
Excellent!, Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Just a pity he doesn't know Elizabeth Barrett Browning from Shakespeare.


pat
Midtown
on Feb 13, 2009 at 5:29 pm
pat, Midtown
on Feb 13, 2009 at 5:29 pm

How is it "equitable" to charge residents more for utilities and then use that money to support the Children’s Theater to the tune of $1 million/year? Or to give well-paid city employees bonuses in a recession? Or pay for The Color of Palo Alto?


Excellent!
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 13, 2009 at 5:40 pm
Excellent!, Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 13, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Pat, what do you consider a more equitable arrangement for payments to support the Children’s Theater to the tune of $1 million/year? Or to give well-paid city employees bonuses in a recession? Or pay for The Color of Palo Alto?

I don't necessarily agree with the expenditures, I just find this solution fairer than others. We're living beyond our means. If we want the city to continue providing services, we need to pay for them.


pat
Midtown
on Feb 13, 2009 at 8:29 pm
pat, Midtown
on Feb 13, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Excellent: How many residents NEED the Children's Theater or The Color of Palo Alto. Those are not essential services. We need to stop living beyond our means and cut costs. That means prioritizing services and cutting all those we can't afford.


Excellent!
Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2009 at 10:05 pm
Excellent!, Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Pat, never said anyone needed anything. Sure, get rid of them but we still have to pay for the other services. Just look at the $750,000 yearly increase in service costs we voted for in November. There is also the pension costs that aren't going away.

You can't wish away your debts and hope someone else pays for the extra services you vote for. So what is your plan to pay for them in an equitable manner?


Walter_E_Wallis
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 14, 2009 at 8:30 am
Walter_E_Wallis, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 14, 2009 at 8:30 am

Didn't Elizabeth Barrett Browning write Shakespeare's works? Or was it the other way around?


Excellent!
Crescent Park
on Feb 14, 2009 at 8:58 am
Excellent!, Crescent Park
on Feb 14, 2009 at 8:58 am

Ah, yes, the old "write the poem and leave it undiscovered for 250 years" switcheroo. Second time I've fallen for that one this week.


resident
Meadow Park
on Feb 14, 2009 at 3:15 pm
resident, Meadow Park
on Feb 14, 2009 at 3:15 pm

It's quite obvious the city is going to get away with this. Palo Altans are helpless.


anonymous
another community
on Feb 14, 2009 at 8:55 pm
anonymous, another community
on Feb 14, 2009 at 8:55 pm

This has to be the funniest thread I've read in a long time! Brrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!


Skeptical
Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2009 at 4:29 pm
Skeptical, Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2009 at 4:29 pm

See the attached link to learn more about out-of-control spending in the Utilities Dept. $10 million for software to send you that new bigger bill. Makes the web site look like a bargain.
Web Link


Sandy Voorhees
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2009 at 11:08 am
Sandy Voorhees, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2009 at 11:08 am

Maybe if we spent some of the money on fixing things require, we wouldn't have as surplus.

We are paying a Storm Drain Tax - what is being done with the money? We are still paying a Utilities Tax - what is being done with that? Municipalities were to build water reserve tanks to be able to supply water in case if a disaster. What is the city doing about that? We haven't finished the undergrounding of utilities after nearly thirty years and our streets and sidewalks are not in good shape.

I guess we are saving the money to pay higher salaries and to give bonuses to people who are "doing their job".


Richard Placone
Barron Park
on Feb 17, 2009 at 4:56 pm
Richard Placone, Barron Park
on Feb 17, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I would like "Excellent" to list just five services that no other city near us offers to its residents. By "near us" I include Mt. View, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Redwood City, Sunnyvale, to name a few. I have no problem paying for needed services, but I do have a problem when I find that most other cities offer similar services, in some cases better services, with half the staff and with a smaller General Fund than Palo Alto, and when Palo Alto makes up the difference between its normal revenues and it expenditures for all the unidentified special services we have and others don't, by milking the cash cow we call the Utility Department. So give me five services that other cites do not have that make it worth while to be a citizen of Palo alto. After 47 years here, I still like living in Palo Alto - I just don't like being ripped off by an inattentive council and staff.

Richard Placone
Barron Park


Not Excellent
another community
on Feb 17, 2009 at 5:31 pm
Not Excellent, another community
on Feb 17, 2009 at 5:31 pm

1. Children's Theatre
2. Zoo
3. 5 Libraries
4. Children's Library
5. Private Park
6. No Bayland development/polluting
7. Animal Shelter and Services
8. Pilot lighting service
9. 3 off leash Dog parks
10. May Fete Parade
11. Other Parades
12. Chili cook-Off
13. VERY entertaining City Council Meetings
More?...there is


Jo Ann
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 17, 2009 at 9:19 pm
Jo Ann, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 17, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Does anyone know when there's going to be a meeting about the utility rates? The canned email response from the City Council was less than helpful.


Excellent!
Crescent Park
on Feb 18, 2009 at 7:52 am
Excellent!, Crescent Park
on Feb 18, 2009 at 7:52 am

Richard, you make the same mistake as Pat made above. I'm not defending the spending, I'm defending how we're raising money for the spending.

After 47 years, it sounds like you're happy to let everyone else pay for the services while you enjoy the benefits. If anything, after 47 years, you're one of the people that created this mess. You know, encouraged the high-pension costs and medical benefits that is now running at such a huge cost for Palo Alto. This sure didn't come in recently.

Richard, what is your more equitable way to bridge the deficit of your making that we're currently trying to fund?


Objectionable Content
Barron Park
on Feb 18, 2009 at 8:53 am
Objectionable Content, Barron Park
on Feb 18, 2009 at 8:53 am

"EVERYBODY has a Prop 13 house. Read the rules." You're talking about the loopholes for business. They exist for children and grandchildren who inherit a house, I'm afraid.

And I believe your interlocutor was actually referring to the extreme differences in taxes paid by those who have owned for a long time and those who have not.


Excellent!
Crescent Park
on Feb 18, 2009 at 9:12 am
Excellent!, Crescent Park
on Feb 18, 2009 at 9:12 am

As I mentioned above, I am a beneficiary of prop. 13. My neighbors pay 4x the amount in property tax that I do. Do I think it's fair? No, but I'm not going to change it unless everyone else does.

Regardless of prop. 13, we are in a hole. The question is, how do we get out of it? 70% of Palo Alto voted in November to keep 5 libraries and increase our annual library budget by at least $750,000. As much as you'd like to close them down, we obviously want all these services. In addition we have costs such as medical benefits that we can't just give up.

Come on, I've heard lots of complaints in this thread but no alternative that is anywhere near as equitable as the city's approach.


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