Palo Alto sees good news on revenue front

Increases in tax revenues, concessions from firefighters ease city's budget crunch

Rising revenues and savings in a new firefighter contract have brought Palo Alto a rare bit of good news on the financial front -- developments that should stave off personnel cuts in the current fiscal year.

The City Council Finance Committee discussed on Tuesday (Oct. 18) the latest updates for the 2012 budget and agreed that the latest projections have made it unnecessary for the city to consider staff reductions -- at least in the current fiscal year.

The projections show that a number of key revenue sources have done better than the city had projected when it approved the budget in June. Revenues from the documentary-transfer tax and from sales tax are each $1.2 million above projections; hotel taxes have exceeded expectations by $600,000.

At the same time, the city will save at least $1.1 million thanks to concessions in the new contract with the firefighters union, a contract the council approved Monday (Oct. 17). The new agreement includes a second pension tier for new employees and worker contributions toward retirement and medical costs.

Staff expects to save additional funds, about $1 million, from revisions to staffing levels -- revisions made possible by the abolition of the minimum-staffing clause in the firefighter contract.

This means that the $4.3 million hole in the city's current budget is no longer as daunting as it was when the document was adopted in June. The city plans to cover the balance of the deficit by taking money from the budget stabilization reserve (which increased by $2.7 million) and by obtaining concessions from other public-safety unions.

"The bottom line from my perspective is that we don't have to talk about cuts (in personnel) to balance the budget," Schmid said at the end of Tuesday's meeting.

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Like this comment
Posted by Steven
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 19, 2011 at 10:46 am

I like good news :-)

Like this comment
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 19, 2011 at 11:10 am

Better news would have been that the Mitchell Park project is under control. Never been convinced that many million dollar screw up was necessary in the first place.

Like this comment
Posted by Jo Ann
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 19, 2011 at 11:21 am

Better news is that you'd cut our outrageous utility rates and fix the stupid track light timing.

Like this comment
Posted by Andrew
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm

The stealth revenue grabs (the spiking of water and garbage rates, addition of fees for residents trying to put solar panels on their houses, etc.) all need to be reversed before the city spends another dollar on pet projects or raises for itself.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm

The best way to increase revenue would be to allow decent retail in Palo Alto. Most Palo Altans spend their tax dollars supporting Mountain View and Menlo Park.

Like this comment
Posted by T. Ewart
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 19, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Let's see......$42 million for the Mitchell Park bldg. and still $3 million short! Now where should we get this.....oh, I know, a 9% cut to the firefighters!

Like this comment
Posted by george
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 21, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Increased revenue doesn't mean revisiting the candy store. Let's not fall into the previous pattern of spending $1/4 Million here, another $1/4 Million there for feel good projects or ideas. Any increased revenue must be set aside to reduce the $500 Million backlog of City projects - deferred maintenance, replacement of obsolete buildings and equipment, etc.

By the end of the year the Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission (IBRC) is to have a report for the Council. It should identify the ways to reduce and eventually complete the present unfunded essential programs needed to keep our city functioning - now and for the future.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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