News

Revised budget would keep College Terrace Library open, limit cuts to teen programs

Proposal seeks to limit 3 libraries to 3 days per week

After initially proposing to close College Terrace Library, the city is now looking to keep this branch, and two others, open but limited to three days a week. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Palo Alto would keep the College Terrace Library open, partially restore funding for teen and arts programs and limit its cuts to the Police Department under a revised budget proposal that City Manager Ed Shikada released Thursday night.

The new proposal, which is based on the City Council's direction from meetings on May 11, 12 and 13, includes a nearly 20% expense reduction when compared with the budget that the city was preparing before the COVID-19 pandemic. It reflects a 15% reduction from the current year and incorporates the council's assumption that the city will face a revenue drop of about $38.8 million next year, with sales- and hotel-tax revenues running dry because of the county's shelter-in-place order.

The revised budget, which the council will discuss this Tuesday, May 26, restores some of the most contentious cuts from the prior version. Instead of closing the College Terrace Library, staff now proposes to keep all five libraries open but dividing them into two "full-service libraries," which would be open for six days a week (Rinconada and Mitchell Park), and "neighborhood libraries," which would be open for three days a week (Downtown, College Terrace and Children's libraries).

The Baylands Interpretive Center, which was set for closure, would now be open for 50% of its prior hours. The city is also reaching out to nonprofit groups to support keeping the center open.

Another area that will see partial restoration in funding is support for teen services. Initially, the city was looking to cut $400,000 from the budget; now, it is looking to reduce expenses by about $200,000. The prior budget would have eliminated funding for the Teen Arts Council, the Teen Advisory Board, MakeX and the Think Fund. The revised budget restores this funding. The prior budget included a $50,000 cut to Youth Connectedness Initiative, a Youth Community Service program; the new one restores $25,000 for the program.

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The budget also restores limited funding for the Palo Alto Art Center and the Children's Theatre. City funding for the theater would still be reduced by $721,254, but while the prior budget eliminated all theater productions, the revised one allows for two major productions and nine minor ones.

The Art Center would still see more than $450,000 in expense reductions, which would require it to reduce its frequency of exhibitions and educational offerings. It will, however, retain its studio programs and classes. Staff is also expecting private funds to support Art Center programs from the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, assistance that foundation members offered during budget hearings earlier this month.

In public safety, the revised budget restores funding for investigations, animal services and information management. The report states that potential gaps in service in those areas will "no longer be filled by police officers on an ad hoc basis so they can focus on emergency response."

The restoration in funding was prompted by council guidance, community feedback and salary cuts in the city's "managers and professionals" group, which includes about 235 employees. The 15% compensation reduction, according to staff, would generate about $5.4 million in savings across all funds, including utilities. In the general fund, which pays for most public services that don't include utilities, the salary cuts would free up $3.5 million, according to staff.

The budget would reduce the city's workforce by 7%, with 74.25 full-time-equivalent on the chopping block, as well as 26.18 full-time-equivalent positions filled by part-time staff. Staffing level would drop from 1,033 to 959.6 full-time-equivalent positions, a reduction of 74.25 positions.

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As such, residents will see service reductions. The Fire Department would lose five firefighter/EMT positions, which would hinder the city's ability to staff units with overtime when firefighters are on lead. The budget notes that "response times and ability to handle concurrent calls will be reduced evenings and weekends, resulting in some calls being handled by the County mutual aid partners." Fire Chief Geo Blackshire told the council on May 12 that county ambulances on average take twice as long as the Fire Department's to get to an incident.

The Police Department would still see a significant funding reduction, with cuts including nine positions in the patrol division, five full-time positions in dispatch services and a communications manager.

The new budget is still banking on saving $2.5 million annually on the city's lease agreement with the Palo Alto Unified School District over Cubberley Community Center. Shikada told the council that the city plans to achieve this savings by switching from the current model, where the city leases about 27 acres of Cubberley from the district, to an "a la carte" system in which the council limits its leases to particular facilities such as the theater or playing fields.

And the Palo Alto Shuttle, which has been providing free rides along two routes for the past 20 years, remains on the chopping block.

The new report from Shikada acknowledges that the budget includes "significant service impacts."

"We recognize that times are unprecedented, and the details contained in this staff report are tough choices that we would prefer not to be outlining," the report states. "The City has been forced to prioritize essential services and pare back discretionary services. The City acknowledges that many of these discretionary services have contributed to the unique character of the Palo Alto community. From a citywide standpoint, these service level reduction options include creative strategies, changes in how we approach City services and different staffing models, and efficiencies, where possible."

For a detailed look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the local economy, employment, education and more, see "Life in Quarantine: How the COVID-19 pandemic has changed Silicon Valley," a series of interactive by-the-number graphics.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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Revised budget would keep College Terrace Library open, limit cuts to teen programs

Proposal seeks to limit 3 libraries to 3 days per week

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, May 22, 2020, 12:42 pm
Updated: Tue, May 26, 2020, 8:27 am

Palo Alto would keep the College Terrace Library open, partially restore funding for teen and arts programs and limit its cuts to the Police Department under a revised budget proposal that City Manager Ed Shikada released Thursday night.

The new proposal, which is based on the City Council's direction from meetings on May 11, 12 and 13, includes a nearly 20% expense reduction when compared with the budget that the city was preparing before the COVID-19 pandemic. It reflects a 15% reduction from the current year and incorporates the council's assumption that the city will face a revenue drop of about $38.8 million next year, with sales- and hotel-tax revenues running dry because of the county's shelter-in-place order.

The revised budget, which the council will discuss this Tuesday, May 26, restores some of the most contentious cuts from the prior version. Instead of closing the College Terrace Library, staff now proposes to keep all five libraries open but dividing them into two "full-service libraries," which would be open for six days a week (Rinconada and Mitchell Park), and "neighborhood libraries," which would be open for three days a week (Downtown, College Terrace and Children's libraries).

The Baylands Interpretive Center, which was set for closure, would now be open for 50% of its prior hours. The city is also reaching out to nonprofit groups to support keeping the center open.

Another area that will see partial restoration in funding is support for teen services. Initially, the city was looking to cut $400,000 from the budget; now, it is looking to reduce expenses by about $200,000. The prior budget would have eliminated funding for the Teen Arts Council, the Teen Advisory Board, MakeX and the Think Fund. The revised budget restores this funding. The prior budget included a $50,000 cut to Youth Connectedness Initiative, a Youth Community Service program; the new one restores $25,000 for the program.

The budget also restores limited funding for the Palo Alto Art Center and the Children's Theatre. City funding for the theater would still be reduced by $721,254, but while the prior budget eliminated all theater productions, the revised one allows for two major productions and nine minor ones.

The Art Center would still see more than $450,000 in expense reductions, which would require it to reduce its frequency of exhibitions and educational offerings. It will, however, retain its studio programs and classes. Staff is also expecting private funds to support Art Center programs from the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, assistance that foundation members offered during budget hearings earlier this month.

In public safety, the revised budget restores funding for investigations, animal services and information management. The report states that potential gaps in service in those areas will "no longer be filled by police officers on an ad hoc basis so they can focus on emergency response."

The restoration in funding was prompted by council guidance, community feedback and salary cuts in the city's "managers and professionals" group, which includes about 235 employees. The 15% compensation reduction, according to staff, would generate about $5.4 million in savings across all funds, including utilities. In the general fund, which pays for most public services that don't include utilities, the salary cuts would free up $3.5 million, according to staff.

The budget would reduce the city's workforce by 7%, with 74.25 full-time-equivalent on the chopping block, as well as 26.18 full-time-equivalent positions filled by part-time staff. Staffing level would drop from 1,033 to 959.6 full-time-equivalent positions, a reduction of 74.25 positions.

As such, residents will see service reductions. The Fire Department would lose five firefighter/EMT positions, which would hinder the city's ability to staff units with overtime when firefighters are on lead. The budget notes that "response times and ability to handle concurrent calls will be reduced evenings and weekends, resulting in some calls being handled by the County mutual aid partners." Fire Chief Geo Blackshire told the council on May 12 that county ambulances on average take twice as long as the Fire Department's to get to an incident.

The Police Department would still see a significant funding reduction, with cuts including nine positions in the patrol division, five full-time positions in dispatch services and a communications manager.

The new budget is still banking on saving $2.5 million annually on the city's lease agreement with the Palo Alto Unified School District over Cubberley Community Center. Shikada told the council that the city plans to achieve this savings by switching from the current model, where the city leases about 27 acres of Cubberley from the district, to an "a la carte" system in which the council limits its leases to particular facilities such as the theater or playing fields.

And the Palo Alto Shuttle, which has been providing free rides along two routes for the past 20 years, remains on the chopping block.

The new report from Shikada acknowledges that the budget includes "significant service impacts."

"We recognize that times are unprecedented, and the details contained in this staff report are tough choices that we would prefer not to be outlining," the report states. "The City has been forced to prioritize essential services and pare back discretionary services. The City acknowledges that many of these discretionary services have contributed to the unique character of the Palo Alto community. From a citywide standpoint, these service level reduction options include creative strategies, changes in how we approach City services and different staffing models, and efficiencies, where possible."

For a detailed look at how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the local economy, employment, education and more, see "Life in Quarantine: How the COVID-19 pandemic has changed Silicon Valley," a series of interactive by-the-number graphics.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

Gilbert
College Terrace
on May 22, 2020 at 4:40 pm
Gilbert, College Terrace
on May 22, 2020 at 4:40 pm
12 people like this

“The budget notes that "response times and ability to handle concurrent calls will be reduced evenings and weekends, resulting in some calls being handled by the County mutual aid partners.”

The city opted to keep library’s open instead of fire stations. This is nuts. You don’t need library coverage you need first responder coverage. When you call 911 you need them to come from as close as possible or you’re waiting ! You can drive to another library and no one will die.

The ability to handle call spikes and concurrent calls was already reduced two years ago. Now allowing the city to close down fire stations due to low staffing means you’ll wait 5-10 mins extra (or more) for someone to show up. They’re breaking the coverage grid leaving us vulnerable.

They’re cutting the budget to the fire department beyond what is safe and using fancy language to push it past us so they don’t have to here us complain about libraries.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2020 at 7:25 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2020 at 7:25 pm
20 people like this

Important thing to remember is that libraries are used as cooling centres on hot summer and fall days. Many seniors in particular are living in older homes without air conditioning.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 22, 2020 at 7:29 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 22, 2020 at 7:29 pm
14 people like this

Gilbert, I don't think they're closing fire stations; I think there's just discussion of not replacing the current fire station at Middlefield and Meadow with a brand new one like the one they finally finished at Newell & Embarcadero.


chris
University South
on May 22, 2020 at 10:21 pm
chris, University South
on May 22, 2020 at 10:21 pm
8 people like this

This version includes $3.5 million in salary reductions for managers and professionals. The negotiations with the police, fire, and other unions are still ongoing. The police and fire departments can save some more of their colleagues with their own salary reductions, sharing the pain of everybody else in the city.


Aaa
College Terrace
on May 22, 2020 at 10:59 pm
Aaa, College Terrace
on May 22, 2020 at 10:59 pm
4 people like this

Re: cooling centers

Didn’t the libraries close a couple of years ago because it was too hot?

Given they are going to be reduced, your seniors are going to need a solution in any case. Relying on a library to be open on the days that are hot rather than when scheduled isn’t a plan.


Gilbert
College Terrace
on May 23, 2020 at 7:18 am
Gilbert, College Terrace
on May 23, 2020 at 7:18 am
7 people like this

Actually that’s exactly what they will be doing. They kept capital funding in place and will continue to build a brand new fire station. While they are doing that, they will be closing fire stations on weeknights and weekends when there are not enough personnel to staff them. It’s called “browning out”. They also couple that with cross staffing meaning the existing stations are doing double duty. It’s a much smaller force than we had even 5 years ago.

Thank you for the comment it was my exact point. I don’t believe most people understand what is happening due to the technical and vague language being used.


CC
Professorville
on May 23, 2020 at 7:28 am
CC, Professorville
on May 23, 2020 at 7:28 am
2 people like this

Why fund the Police Department when everything seems fine right now? An economic catastrophe is looming and people will become desperate. The looting and robbing will begin, and many will see it as justified by economic disparities.

Hmmm, so which should we fund…. art and teen programs or the police?


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2020 at 7:40 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2020 at 7:40 am
16 people like this

@AAA

The old Mitchell Park library was continually closing when it became too hot for the staff to work. It was one of the arguments Alison Cormack used to get the building torn down and the new library built. It was "for the children" and now she is obviously not thinking about the "children" when she wants to make all these cuts.


TG
South of Midtown
on May 23, 2020 at 7:51 am
TG, South of Midtown
on May 23, 2020 at 7:51 am
18 people like this

Managers and professionals are not always working near 100% of their capacity. With 15% "temporary" pay reduction, there is still fat in the structure.

Files and ranks are the people who deliver services to the community rain or shine. They don't have high wages and have no extra perks like managers and professionals to sacrifice during a challenging time like this. Asking the files and ranks to cut to the bone while the management group still has fat to spare is cruel


Mom
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2020 at 10:37 am
Mom, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2020 at 10:37 am
10 people like this

Children's Theater is fabulous. But, it really should charge for the kids to be in productions. Kids from all over come to try out because they program is free, where other communities have a significant charge. Give fee waivers, of course, where the family needs it. And not sure if this is PC, but kids in Palo Alto should have get priority (but maybe simply charging would be solution enough).


Budget
Midtown
on May 24, 2020 at 1:16 pm
Budget, Midtown
on May 24, 2020 at 1:16 pm
4 people like this

I'm wondering why we are all accepting these as the only choices. Is there somewhere I can find the whole budget? Give me 5 minutes and I'll shave off the 38 mil (which I think will come back much faster than they are predicting - humans just don't predict very well, lol) without cutting anything a Palo Alto resident actually uses, needs, or wants. The only people yelling and screaming at me would be the people who haven't lived on a paycheck for way too long, and they can yell and scream their way right out of town for all I care - we need more humility in our government. Sometimes plain, simple and efficient is the best way, especially in a little place like Palo Alto - with what, 70,000 residents?


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 24, 2020 at 3:04 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 24, 2020 at 3:04 pm
2 people like this

@Budget, at the end of the comments here, Pat Burt posts some links along with his budget commentary Web Link


Barron Park dad
Barron Park
on May 26, 2020 at 1:17 pm
Barron Park dad, Barron Park
on May 26, 2020 at 1:17 pm
5 people like this

Reductions in library hours is vastly preferable to closing down libraries. Think of it this way: libraries and other hyper-local community services are the windows into the "soul" and "feel" of a town. They truly make Palo Alto what it is.

I like the idea mentioned above of charging modest fees for Children's Theater, and provide waivers wherever needed (just like school lunches).


Frankie
another community
on May 26, 2020 at 2:33 pm
Frankie , another community
on May 26, 2020 at 2:33 pm
7 people like this

Again, city managers office doesn’t lose one position? I guess call their office when your having a fire, medical or other emergency?


A PA resident
South of Midtown
on May 26, 2020 at 6:51 pm
A PA resident, South of Midtown
on May 26, 2020 at 6:51 pm
3 people like this

Still they haven't touched city employee's generous salaries. And they get off every other Friday.
And PA residents are supposed to finance their generous salaries, when residents are facing
layoffs and pay cuts... I don't understand why no sacrifice can't be asked of them.
City manager makes $400K+. That's more than the governor of California, or even the president.


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