News

Palo Alto prepares to cut more than 70 positions as revenues plummet

City Council approves reductions that will leave a $744K surplus

Cicely Coetsee stands by a Palo Alto shuttle stop at Channing Avenue and Newell Road on April 30, 2014. The free shuttle program would be eliminated under the city budget for fiscal year 2021. Weekly file photo.

Facing a public outcry about recent proposals to cut funding for teen services, art programs and public safety staffing, the Palo Alto City Council on Tuesday agreed to scale back some of the cuts as it endorsed a budget that would eliminate more than 70 positions at City Hall.

The proposed budget, which the council plans to formally adopt on June 22, reverses some of the most contentious cuts that City Manager Ed Shikada had proposed in April. Responding to a council mandate to reduce costs, the budget had initially proposed closing the College Terrace Library, eliminating all Children’s Theatre productions and cutting dozens of positions in the Police Department.

Under the revised budget, the Children's Theatre would still see major cuts, but it would now be able to have two major productions and nine minor ones. The College Terrace Library would now stay open, though under the new model it would be one of three branches (along with the Children's and Downtown libraries) that are only open three days per week. And the Police Department will still see heavy cuts, though not as steep as the council envisioned two weeks ago.

Even with the revisions, the budget represents the largest contraction of city services in decades. It would eliminate 74 full-time positions from a City Hall workforce of about 1,033 employees, a 7% reduction. It would also eliminate 26 full-time-equivalent positions that are held by part-time workers, a move that impacts about 100 employees, Chief Financial Officer Kiely Nose told the council. The shuttle program, which runs along two routes, would be shut down; park maintenance would be reduced; and the city's footprint at Cubberley Community Center would shrink, creating uncertainty for the various nonprofit groups that have been subleasing space at the eclectic but dilapidated campus for years.

The budget that the council approved by a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Greg Tanaka dissenting, is based on the council's assumption that the local economy will take many months to recover from the debilitating impacts of the economic shutdown. With the city's sales- and hotel-tax revenues plunging over the course of the shelter-in-place order that the county enacted more than two months ago, the council is expecting to see a $38.8 million drop in revenues. The budget includes about $196 million in general fund expenses, a 20% reduction from the budget that the city was considering before the pandemic.

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On Tuesday, the council concluded a series of public hearings that had spanned four days and more than 30 hours of debate before voting on a budget that no one was thrilled about but that nearly all deemed acceptable.

"I hope there's not going to be another year like this," Councilwoman Liz Kniss said at the conclusion of the Tuesday meeting.

The council's Tuesday task was made somewhat easier by the roughly $3 million that the city expects to save in the general fund from cuts to managers' salaries. Shikada announced last Thursday that the roughly 230 employees in the city's "managers and professionals" group, the only group not represented by a union, had agreed to concessions that represent about 15% of their compensation. He said he will be taking an additional 5% pay cut.

Shikada also indicated Tuesday that management continues to talk to the other labor groups about similar concessions, which could potentially mitigate some of the cuts. The discussions, he said, are "proceeding positively."

Tanaka voted against the budget after his colleagues rejected a series of motions that he proposed at the conclusion of the marathon meeting. He suggested that the city forgo a computer upgrade that Shikada had proposed. He also suggested that the city has too many managers and requested a "scope of control" analysis at City Hall (the council rejected both of these proposals).

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While Tanaka said he hopes to see other labor groups participate in the "shared sacrifice" of balancing the budget, he and his colleagues weren't banking on any further concessions as they approved budget cuts for nearly every department.

The new budget restores six of the positions in the Police Department that were on the chopping block in the prior proposal. The council approved restoring positions in information management, animal services and investigations divisions. As a result of the Tuesday restorations, the council will no longer have to limit hours in the public lobby or shut down weekend service for animal control. More critically, patrol officers would not have to take up functions that have been traditionally held by civilians, Nose said.

"We really restored a lot of civilian staffing so we can make sure police officers will focus on patrol and they won't be distracted by other collateral duties that would creep into the scope of their work with reduced civilian staffing," Nose said.

The department, however, still stands to lose 21 positions, seven of which are currently vacant. And the Fire Department is still planning to switch to a "brownout" model that could result in temporary closures of stations when staffing levels are too low and increased reliance on county paramedics for emergency services. Park maintenance would now be slashed by 25%, not 50% as originally proposed. And the Lucy Evans Interpretive Center in the Baylands would now be open half the time, rather than completely shuttered, as previously proposed.

"These are not impacts that we take lightly to bring forward, and (we) recognize the significance of the impact to the community and to our workforce, quite frankly," Shikada said.

The cuts that the council approved Tuesday leave the city with a $744,000 surplus, which council members agreed to revisit in the fall. That fund is expected to pay for programs that are now in limbo because of the COVID-19 pandemic but that may become more viable later in the year, when shelter-in-place orders are no longer in effect and when transit ridership starts returning to its pre-pandemic level.

The council also agreed to cut $300,000 from the city's annual allocation to the Palo Alto Transportation Management Association, a nonprofit charged with reducing solo-driver commuting and encouraging people to take transit. With the nonprofit's mission getting increasingly tricky in the era of social distancing, the council agreed to provide about $450,000 in funding for the Palo Alto TMA rather than the usual $760,000. That funding would be used to support local businesses in recovering from the shutdown, potentially by helping to facilitate outdoor dining on commercial strips.

In approving the budget cuts, council members acknowledged that the process has been extremely unusual, both because of the magnitude of cuts and because of the deep uncertainty about what recovery will look like.

"This isn't anything that anybody likes to do but it had to be done and I think we got to a workable place here," Councilman Eric Filseth said.

Some residents thought the budget still goes too far in reducing funding for popular recreational programs, including those in the Children's Theatre, which would see $720,000 in cuts, and the Palo Alto Art Center, which would lose about $450,000.

Alvin Hom, a Gunn High graduate and former performer at the Children's Theatre, was one of many residents who asked the council to retain funding for the popular facility at Lucie Stern Community Center.

"Performing on stage showed me how much I enjoy making other people laugh and smile," Hom said, recalling his time at the theater. "It taught me the importance of enjoying life and made me want to find other ways of spreading happiness in my community."

Others urged the council to preserve community services by making further cuts in infrastructure spending, A group of 20 residents, including former mayors (Pat Burt, Peter Drekmeier, Lanie Wheeler), neighborhood leaders (Becky Sanders, Sheri Furman) and past and present members of the Parks and Recreation Commission (Ed Lauing, Keith Reckdahl, Jennifer Hetterly) and the Planning and Transportation Commission (Dan Garber and Arthur Keller) submitted a letter asking the council to rethink its priorities.

"By modestly reducing the historically high investments in big capital projects, re-bidding projects, and curtailing salaries and raises, we can eliminate the most severe cuts to employees and our critical, highly valued services," the letter states. "At the same time, the city can ensure it has an adequate reserve fund to be able to meet essential needs if the economy worsens more in the coming months."

Burt told the council that some projects in the proposed plan, including public art and proposed Rinconada Park improvements, should be reconsidered to offset some of the cuts to services.

"We've all seen that we had a crash in TOT (transient-oriented tax) but we have not adjusted the capital plan in accordance with the funding sources that were really driving the ability to move forward on that very aggressive schedule of new problems," Burt told the council. "A very minor, modest adjustment to that pace, corresponding to the decline in revenue dedicated to that, would allow probably full restoration of the service cuts that are being proposed."

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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Palo Alto prepares to cut more than 70 positions as revenues plummet

City Council approves reductions that will leave a $744K surplus

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, May 26, 2020, 11:37 pm

Facing a public outcry about recent proposals to cut funding for teen services, art programs and public safety staffing, the Palo Alto City Council on Tuesday agreed to scale back some of the cuts as it endorsed a budget that would eliminate more than 70 positions at City Hall.

The proposed budget, which the council plans to formally adopt on June 22, reverses some of the most contentious cuts that City Manager Ed Shikada had proposed in April. Responding to a council mandate to reduce costs, the budget had initially proposed closing the College Terrace Library, eliminating all Children’s Theatre productions and cutting dozens of positions in the Police Department.

Under the revised budget, the Children's Theatre would still see major cuts, but it would now be able to have two major productions and nine minor ones. The College Terrace Library would now stay open, though under the new model it would be one of three branches (along with the Children's and Downtown libraries) that are only open three days per week. And the Police Department will still see heavy cuts, though not as steep as the council envisioned two weeks ago.

Even with the revisions, the budget represents the largest contraction of city services in decades. It would eliminate 74 full-time positions from a City Hall workforce of about 1,033 employees, a 7% reduction. It would also eliminate 26 full-time-equivalent positions that are held by part-time workers, a move that impacts about 100 employees, Chief Financial Officer Kiely Nose told the council. The shuttle program, which runs along two routes, would be shut down; park maintenance would be reduced; and the city's footprint at Cubberley Community Center would shrink, creating uncertainty for the various nonprofit groups that have been subleasing space at the eclectic but dilapidated campus for years.

The budget that the council approved by a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Greg Tanaka dissenting, is based on the council's assumption that the local economy will take many months to recover from the debilitating impacts of the economic shutdown. With the city's sales- and hotel-tax revenues plunging over the course of the shelter-in-place order that the county enacted more than two months ago, the council is expecting to see a $38.8 million drop in revenues. The budget includes about $196 million in general fund expenses, a 20% reduction from the budget that the city was considering before the pandemic.

On Tuesday, the council concluded a series of public hearings that had spanned four days and more than 30 hours of debate before voting on a budget that no one was thrilled about but that nearly all deemed acceptable.

"I hope there's not going to be another year like this," Councilwoman Liz Kniss said at the conclusion of the Tuesday meeting.

The council's Tuesday task was made somewhat easier by the roughly $3 million that the city expects to save in the general fund from cuts to managers' salaries. Shikada announced last Thursday that the roughly 230 employees in the city's "managers and professionals" group, the only group not represented by a union, had agreed to concessions that represent about 15% of their compensation. He said he will be taking an additional 5% pay cut.

Shikada also indicated Tuesday that management continues to talk to the other labor groups about similar concessions, which could potentially mitigate some of the cuts. The discussions, he said, are "proceeding positively."

Tanaka voted against the budget after his colleagues rejected a series of motions that he proposed at the conclusion of the marathon meeting. He suggested that the city forgo a computer upgrade that Shikada had proposed. He also suggested that the city has too many managers and requested a "scope of control" analysis at City Hall (the council rejected both of these proposals).

While Tanaka said he hopes to see other labor groups participate in the "shared sacrifice" of balancing the budget, he and his colleagues weren't banking on any further concessions as they approved budget cuts for nearly every department.

The new budget restores six of the positions in the Police Department that were on the chopping block in the prior proposal. The council approved restoring positions in information management, animal services and investigations divisions. As a result of the Tuesday restorations, the council will no longer have to limit hours in the public lobby or shut down weekend service for animal control. More critically, patrol officers would not have to take up functions that have been traditionally held by civilians, Nose said.

"We really restored a lot of civilian staffing so we can make sure police officers will focus on patrol and they won't be distracted by other collateral duties that would creep into the scope of their work with reduced civilian staffing," Nose said.

The department, however, still stands to lose 21 positions, seven of which are currently vacant. And the Fire Department is still planning to switch to a "brownout" model that could result in temporary closures of stations when staffing levels are too low and increased reliance on county paramedics for emergency services. Park maintenance would now be slashed by 25%, not 50% as originally proposed. And the Lucy Evans Interpretive Center in the Baylands would now be open half the time, rather than completely shuttered, as previously proposed.

"These are not impacts that we take lightly to bring forward, and (we) recognize the significance of the impact to the community and to our workforce, quite frankly," Shikada said.

The cuts that the council approved Tuesday leave the city with a $744,000 surplus, which council members agreed to revisit in the fall. That fund is expected to pay for programs that are now in limbo because of the COVID-19 pandemic but that may become more viable later in the year, when shelter-in-place orders are no longer in effect and when transit ridership starts returning to its pre-pandemic level.

The council also agreed to cut $300,000 from the city's annual allocation to the Palo Alto Transportation Management Association, a nonprofit charged with reducing solo-driver commuting and encouraging people to take transit. With the nonprofit's mission getting increasingly tricky in the era of social distancing, the council agreed to provide about $450,000 in funding for the Palo Alto TMA rather than the usual $760,000. That funding would be used to support local businesses in recovering from the shutdown, potentially by helping to facilitate outdoor dining on commercial strips.

In approving the budget cuts, council members acknowledged that the process has been extremely unusual, both because of the magnitude of cuts and because of the deep uncertainty about what recovery will look like.

"This isn't anything that anybody likes to do but it had to be done and I think we got to a workable place here," Councilman Eric Filseth said.

Some residents thought the budget still goes too far in reducing funding for popular recreational programs, including those in the Children's Theatre, which would see $720,000 in cuts, and the Palo Alto Art Center, which would lose about $450,000.

Alvin Hom, a Gunn High graduate and former performer at the Children's Theatre, was one of many residents who asked the council to retain funding for the popular facility at Lucie Stern Community Center.

"Performing on stage showed me how much I enjoy making other people laugh and smile," Hom said, recalling his time at the theater. "It taught me the importance of enjoying life and made me want to find other ways of spreading happiness in my community."

Others urged the council to preserve community services by making further cuts in infrastructure spending, A group of 20 residents, including former mayors (Pat Burt, Peter Drekmeier, Lanie Wheeler), neighborhood leaders (Becky Sanders, Sheri Furman) and past and present members of the Parks and Recreation Commission (Ed Lauing, Keith Reckdahl, Jennifer Hetterly) and the Planning and Transportation Commission (Dan Garber and Arthur Keller) submitted a letter asking the council to rethink its priorities.

"By modestly reducing the historically high investments in big capital projects, re-bidding projects, and curtailing salaries and raises, we can eliminate the most severe cuts to employees and our critical, highly valued services," the letter states. "At the same time, the city can ensure it has an adequate reserve fund to be able to meet essential needs if the economy worsens more in the coming months."

Burt told the council that some projects in the proposed plan, including public art and proposed Rinconada Park improvements, should be reconsidered to offset some of the cuts to services.

"We've all seen that we had a crash in TOT (transient-oriented tax) but we have not adjusted the capital plan in accordance with the funding sources that were really driving the ability to move forward on that very aggressive schedule of new problems," Burt told the council. "A very minor, modest adjustment to that pace, corresponding to the decline in revenue dedicated to that, would allow probably full restoration of the service cuts that are being proposed."

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

common sense
Midtown
on May 27, 2020 at 5:39 am
common sense, Midtown
on May 27, 2020 at 5:39 am
71 people like this

Politicians will inflict the maximum pain possible when cutting budgets
Politicians will return the next year asking for additional taxes

Voters were told that the Hotel Tax was to fund infrastructure improvements (bike bridge, etc). Hotel tax revenue has dropped, but instead of cutting infrastructure improvements, the politicians cut resident services.


Just wondering...
Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2020 at 7:24 am
Just wondering..., Old Palo Alto
on May 27, 2020 at 7:24 am
99 people like this

Why does the City of Palo Alto need 230 management employees making six digit salaries to manage less than a 1000 regular employees?


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2020 at 8:35 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2020 at 8:35 am
24 people like this

There is some good progress here if these 70 positions are redundant.

But eliminating the shuttle is not a good idea. Many seniors and school children will have no other option but to use a car, either Uber or parent. It will ultimately put more traffic on the road particularly during school commute times. The argument of course is that school commute times will look different, but that will not be the case for ever.

We have lost VTA service because of the shuttles. Now without shuttle service we have lost public transport. CC should remember this when they talk about traffic problems and parking problems.


S_mom
Community Center
on May 27, 2020 at 8:43 am
S_mom, Community Center
on May 27, 2020 at 8:43 am
41 people like this

When are they going to explain why they don't want to postpone capital projects? Why do they need to redo Rinconada Park anytime soon? I wasn't able to watch but thanks to Greg Tanaka for being willing to think for himself and go against the grain.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2020 at 10:06 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2020 at 10:06 am
32 people like this

Another person wondering about the capital projects, whether they'll be cut and if not, why not.

As for the argument that construction costs are cheaper now so the projects should proceed, I'd like to see some hard data on that claim. You've got months of pent-up demand for construction work on projects partially finished and those in the works.


Juan byrge
Charleston Gardens
on May 27, 2020 at 10:08 am
Juan byrge, Charleston Gardens
on May 27, 2020 at 10:08 am
39 people like this

OR hey could stop buying multi million dollar houses for city council members. One of those houses is enough to pay salaries for 50 people for a year.


community member
Community Center
on May 27, 2020 at 10:19 am
community member, Community Center
on May 27, 2020 at 10:19 am
10 people like this

In case you want to take a final look at some of the many groups who are to be kicked out of Cubberley Community Center, according to the latest plans...
Web Link


chris
University South
on May 27, 2020 at 10:30 am
chris, University South
on May 27, 2020 at 10:30 am
6 people like this

Where is the list of which groups will stay at Cubberley and which groups will have to relocate or cut a separate deal?


chris
University South
on May 27, 2020 at 10:34 am
chris, University South
on May 27, 2020 at 10:34 am
13 people like this

If the schools like the shuttle, let them pay for it. PAUSD is far less impacted by the revenue shortfall than the city. Let them pay for crossing guards too. PAUSD has also been milk I HPE the city for substandard buildings at Cubberley. What other landlord could get away with that?


Pat Burt
Community Center
on May 27, 2020 at 11:15 am
Pat Burt, Community Center
on May 27, 2020 at 11:15 am
51 people like this

Under the cloak of the COVID shutdown and without engagement with the Cubberley tenants and the community that relies on them, the city has abruptly abandoned much of the Cubberley that has been the primary community center for south Palo Alto for over 30 years. Put bluntly, it is a radical, half-baked, poorly thought out, and needless action.
Citywide, the most drastic cuts to our public safety and community services are unnecessary. If this year’s record-setting capital spending plans were reduced by just 5%, most of the valued services and programs could be retained. Instead of preserving our police and fire staffing, the council majority chose to retain $1.7 million this year for public art in new public buildings.
Rather than keep our parks, libraries, and the Children’s Theatre open, the city will spend $2.5 million to rush forward with non-essential Rinconada Park improvements.
Those of us who created the Infrastructure Plan, and built the funding for it, intended for it to be done in addition to retaining our city services and not instead of those services, but somehow the priorities have been turned on their head.


mjh
College Terrace
on May 27, 2020 at 11:19 am
mjh, College Terrace
on May 27, 2020 at 11:19 am
6 people like this

The document that the city manager prepared for the council presenting their options for cutting the budget, plus the rules the council agreed to for structuring their decision making at the outset, appeared in to end up limiting their options for grappling with and prioritizing the capital expenditures (bricks, mortar, asphalt) budget vs safety and community services budgets. While I can't be sure, in the end I came away from watching most of their hours of public discussion wondering if this appearance of manipulating the outcome was intended or not. And whether a different council and/or mayor would have made a difference. That being said, impressed with Ed Shikada's mastery of so many details and aspects of the complicated city finances, the mayor's ability to keep meetings moving along, and the incredible number of hours individual council members dedicated to devoted to tackling this problem.


mjh
College Terrace
on May 27, 2020 at 11:31 am
mjh, College Terrace
on May 27, 2020 at 11:31 am
37 people like this

"the council majority chose to retain $1.7 million this year for public art in new public buildings."

Unfortunately a council decision some years ago stipulated that a (1%?) percentage of a building's construction be earmarked for public art. To remove this restriction will require the council to hold a second vote to overturn the first one.

Also, unfortunately, a staff member told the council that the "public art" for the new police station had already been approved and finished and was being stored in a warehouse! This before any bids or financing for the proposed police station, let alone putting one shovel in the ground.

Let's hope the council will revisit this rule because while it's always fun to spend someone else's money, should it be the our money? Especially since there seems to be a lack of widespread enthusiasm for the taste exhibited by the so-called art experts who council appoints to this small group who makes these decisions.


mjh
College Terrace
on May 27, 2020 at 11:44 am
mjh, College Terrace
on May 27, 2020 at 11:44 am
7 people like this

"230 management employees"

The large proportion of employees titled "manager" was explained to the council as consisting of many who manage a single function and don't actually manage other people. I think the person in charge of contracts was mentioned as an example.

"stop buying multi million dollar houses for city council members."

Completely erroneous. There's never been a single house bought for a council member. What the council has done for this and the past two city manager's is buy them a house. The past two with ownership and costs split but the most recent to be owned outright by the city. In each case the city has recoups their investment when the house sells.


Pat Burt
Community Center
on May 27, 2020 at 11:57 am
Pat Burt, Community Center
on May 27, 2020 at 11:57 am
64 people like this

The council policy of 1% for public art on new city projects can be readily reversed. It was a reasonable, but not essential, policy when revenues were flush and construction costs were not inflated, but it is not critical, even though the city manager described all of the remaining infrastructure projects as being so. The policy could just be suspended for two years as Vice-mayor Dubois proposed.
City staff did surprise the council yesterday by countering a proposal to suspend this program by stating that the $750K artwork for the new public safety building is already complete, two years ahead of the building being constructed. But this year's budget still includes $1.7 million for public art while severely cutting police and the arts. If given a choice, which is more important to the community, the public art or the services? I haven't heard anyone, other than a council member, who thinks the new statues are the higher priority today.


Spot on, Pat.
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2020 at 12:06 pm
Spot on, Pat., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2020 at 12:06 pm
21 people like this

It was disturbing watching Council yesterday. Sadly, I think more cuts are coming. Most experts say we can expect a second wave of Covid, which may be worse.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2020 at 1:12 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2020 at 1:12 pm
45 people like this

Why is Ms. Cormack so insistent on redoing Cubberly and keeping most of the big-ticket "infrastructure" projects while we're in this situation? Why not wait until better times? Why is it so urgent to replace the fire station at Middlefield and Meadow? Who's benefiting from these construction projects?

I also reject the claim that they must be done now because construction costs are so much lower when construction firms/workers are trying to finish their projects cancelled during shelter-in-place as well as taking on new ones?

Just today the state upped the cost of the high-speed rail by one BILLION dollars, $1,000,000,000. Doesn't sound like a lower cost to me.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2020 at 1:13 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2020 at 1:13 pm
9 people like this

Posted by mjh, a resident of College Terrace

>> "the council majority chose to retain $1.7 million this year for public art in new public buildings."

All they have to do is defer the new public building, and, the art allocation will be deferred also.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2020 at 1:38 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 27, 2020 at 1:38 pm
Like this comment

To whomever asked about the schools liking the shuttle and paying for them.

Forget it. The schools do not care about how the students get to school. It is not their problem. If it was something they cared about, they would have done many different things in the past. It is only the parents who have to be concerned about how the kids get to school.


Amy Brown
Green Acres
on May 27, 2020 at 3:04 pm
Amy Brown, Green Acres
on May 27, 2020 at 3:04 pm
14 people like this

The proposed cuts to the Children's Theatre will cut staff, making it impossible for the Theatre to continue to provide the programming they have created to keep kids involved, virtually and in person until things are safer. It will make it very hard for them to recover. We don't need expensive public art. We need places for our kids to create art and experience joy in their lives now and in the future.


Online Name
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2020 at 3:06 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 27, 2020 at 3:06 pm
16 people like this

Remember that the schools decided it was too costly for them to run school buses so they stopped and shifted the burden to the city. The city in turn couldn't get it together to coordinate its shuttle schedule with school times but they could find the time and the money to preach incessantly for us to get out of our cars. I guess they couldn't figure out there's a correlation between school times, parent drive-time and rush hour.

Yet they have no problems inconveniencing us and asking us to spend $450,000 -- formerly $750.000 to pay the commuting expenses of the commuters occupying the offices they so love and that keeps their donors happy..


Resident
Downtown North
on May 27, 2020 at 3:23 pm
Resident, Downtown North
on May 27, 2020 at 3:23 pm
35 people like this

Re: the council majority chose to retain $1.7 million this year for public art in new public buildings.

Why in the world is this a good decision? We're cutting the arts programs for children after many kids speak up about the benefit of these programs, but the city council continues to buy art worth almost 2 million? How is this logical?

Thank you to Councilor Tanaka for standing up for community interests. I also agree with Pat Burt. Why are these huge construction projects being bull dozed through and approve during a huge budget deficit? Is there no one on the city council (who voted yes) to the budget with a finance degree? Our economy is tanking right now, and we're buying art works that total almost 2 million dollars?

Who are these folks?
Follow the money. Who is the money going to? By this, I mean follow which contractors and bids have been approved for these construction projects. Do they have any connection with our city? If any of our city councilors approving these budgets are connected in any way or form to anyone or company with bids or potential bids on these huge infrastructure projects, these City Council members need to not vote due to conflict of interest issues.

During a time of financial hardship, Pat Burt's approach makes the most sense.
So does Councilman Tanaka's. Mayor Fine and his movement to push development at the cost of bankrupting our city in the midst of pandemic and financial crisis seems really reckless.


Pat Burt
Community Center
on May 27, 2020 at 4:14 pm
Pat Burt, Community Center
on May 27, 2020 at 4:14 pm
46 people like this

Some other aspects of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) are, at best, mystifying.
Two weeks ago, over the mayor’s objections, a majority of the council directed staff to reduce the CIP by $2.6 million. $1.6 million of those funds were designated toward the pension trust and $1.0 million toward the restoration of a small fraction of the services on the chopping block.
Surprisingly, without telling the council or the public, the staff cut $10.8 million, rather than the $2.6 million, from various capital projects. They returned $2.8 million to the General Fund, but the other $8 million was actually added back to other capital projects, Web Link, (Attachment A, Exhibit 2). Staff made no mention of these big changes and it required a careful reading of the report to figure out what was done.
The city manager then asserted that each item in the CIP was the “minimum required investment in essential infrastructure”, claiming that $8 million in funding for various capital projects suddenly became essential over the past two weeks. That $8 million is approximately the amount needed to restore almost all of the key service cuts.
In my 18 years of reviewing the city’s capital plans, this year is far and away the largest budget ever with the least transparency and accountability.


Bob
Barron Park
on May 27, 2020 at 5:42 pm
Bob, Barron Park
on May 27, 2020 at 5:42 pm
7 people like this

I believe the infrastructure funds have strict rules for how they can be spent possibly due to the city charter?

But who cares, those rules need to be changed!

For example, do they stipulate exactly when the project must take place ? If not, just delay the project until another year. Filseth tried to make the argument that this doesn’t save money. Well, it might save someone’s life!

I’m certain the firefighters would rather keep their jobs and stay on duty (not close stations temporarily) than have one new station built. It would be better for all of us.


DTNResident
Downtown North
on May 27, 2020 at 9:56 pm
DTNResident, Downtown North
on May 27, 2020 at 9:56 pm
11 people like this

This hit us when the weather was already warming up in March. What will happen in November of next year when the second wave hits much much harder in colder weather? It's going to be twice as bad then and there's no workable plan. Cut another 144 positions? Let the grass just grow as far as it wants in the parks?

When my lease is up in a few months, I'll be shutting down a long time business in downtown PA, and moving out of state. I know they'll be coming to me to pay for their salaries and pensions and I won't be participating, nor will I bend over waiting around for the far worse second wave, when captain shutdown, Sara Cody, tells me the only solution is to shut down again, when no one at my facility caught it and she can't quite figure out how to balance guidelines for different types of high risk businesses and individuals against the costs of shutting all of them down.


ElectionIsComing
Professorville
on May 27, 2020 at 10:16 pm
ElectionIsComing, Professorville
on May 27, 2020 at 10:16 pm
20 people like this

Please remember how our City Council has handled (or mis-handled if you are of that opinion) the budget in November when four council seats are up for election. Adrian Fine, Greg Tanaka and Lydia Kou are eligible to run for a second terms. I think Tanaka and Kou are on the side of common sense and the interests of the people of Palo Alto. Fine, I think less so, unless your are supporter of large commercial developments and allowing large apartment/condo projects in areas zoned for single-family housing.
Liz Kniss is termed-out so her seat will be up for grabs. Be careful when you vote for whomever runs for that seat. Ignore what they say and follow the money to make an educated guess what their policies will really be after they are elected. Oh, I forgot. It's hard to follow the money since the big contributions are timed to appear in the final campaign funding reports that don't come in until after the election.


Cut the Council
Midtown
on May 28, 2020 at 10:41 am
Cut the Council, Midtown
on May 28, 2020 at 10:41 am
10 people like this

The council needs should be cut down again... Even 7 members is 2 too many, extremely inefficient with so many bureaucrats.


Frankie
another community
on May 29, 2020 at 6:55 am
Frankie , another community
on May 29, 2020 at 6:55 am
20 people like this

How many positions in the City Managers office were eliminated? ZERO! unbelievable. Quit cutting public safety, budget after budget they see cuts while budget after budget the City Mangers office adds positions.


Anneke
Professorville
on May 31, 2020 at 12:42 pm
Anneke, Professorville
on May 31, 2020 at 12:42 pm
15 people like this

The present budget situation in Palo Alto has led me to do quite a bit of research on the subject of compensation for the city's employees' compensation and the possible causes of the city's budget shortfall.

1. With regard to cutting 70 positions from the city's payroll, it would be good to know the present costs (severance pay, cash pay-outs for unused sick and vacation hours) and the future costs (pension and benefits.)

2. From census data in 2020, it shows that the average salary in Palo Alto is $107,000.
Web Link

3. When I look at salaries for the city's employees, especially police and firemen, I find that their salaries lie way above the average citizens' salaries. When I then add the health benefits and pension costs, the total compensation is extremely high.

4. I also did research on surrounding cities, such as San Jose and Redwood City.
San Jose: Web Link
Redwood City: Web Link

5. Allow me to be shocked, as I did not expect to see these high salaries for policemen and firemen at all.

6. The above information tells me that we have a major issue with the Unions representing these employees.

How can we continue to pay these kinds of compensation packages?





ABC
Downtown North
on May 31, 2020 at 1:26 pm
ABC, Downtown North
on May 31, 2020 at 1:26 pm
7 people like this

Wait - Palo Alto usually has a budget of $200M usually? And a decline of 40M is catastrophic? Can someone tell me how the 200M actually get spent? Maybe then we can assess which cuts make sense and which don't. Also cutting a paltry 70 positions just seems insufficient.


Resident
Downtown North
on Jun 1, 2020 at 8:57 am
Resident, Downtown North
on Jun 1, 2020 at 8:57 am
15 people like this

4 CC Positions are coming up for election. 3 City Councilors are running again.
Fine, Kou and Tanaka. Go back and listen to the past recordings for the past budget meetings and see how the past 3 CC voted and what motions they supported.

Who stood up for our community values and common sense desires to efficiently fix budget shortfalls? Who stood up for ongoing large capital infrastructure projects that cost tens of millions of dollars per project?

Who is pushing for large commercial developments and allowing large apartment/condo projects in areas zoned for single-family housing without common sense to quality of living for Palo Alto residents.
Do they care about green space? Community programs? Do they care there is enough hospitals, shopping and parks around before approving big developments or do they not even care?

Who really stands for the developers? Who is really standing for the neighborhoods and residents?

Who is making this place a horrible place for seniors, and places for families with children even though city budget costs for those services are already on a shoestring budget compared to construction projects?

Who wants to close libraries that service all groups of people across all walks of life even though it was on a shoestring budget already? Who wants to keep large construction projects going even even though the expense is immense and acting like we're in an economic boom period?

Who is saying we can't re-negotiate with the unions and want to cut into public safety and police and fire budgets instead because it's easiest?

Shakida makes his suggestions to cut into community programs while preserving his bloated city administrative budgets and jobs, but which City Councilor is supporting Shakida's suggestions of cutting fire, safety, libraries and community programs and not cutting into Shakida's administration staff saying they're unionized so not possible to re-negotiate salaries?

Figure out who is standing for community interests because Shakida is not representing residents right now. The time of crisis shows everyone's true colors. From the City manager Ed Shakida to each City Councilor.

Who during these unprecedented times, is wasting our tax payer dollars on needless items? Who is trying to make excuses to keep the status quo of spending on big budget line items? Vote responsibly.

Follow the money and when you can't follow their votes and motions they made or supported. Who didn't ever want any city ordinance reading and wanted to wave in all sorts of outside construction and buildings to come through without even thinking of aesthetics?


A PA resident
South of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2020 at 1:07 pm
A PA resident, South of Midtown
on Jun 1, 2020 at 1:07 pm
10 people like this

It's shameful that city employees aren't asked to chip in and accept a pay cut. How in the world is this justified. They also have every other Friday off.
That's 26 days off a year, by default. How in this world is this justified. When Palo Altans are facing pay cuts and layoffs, they are now asked to sustain these ridiculous benefits of a bloated city administration. I urge everyone to elect city council members who represent the actual people who live here, not city employees' ridiculous benefit packages.
Remember that city services will be cut. Employee's salaries won't. What a joke.


Sylvie
The Greenhouse
on Jun 2, 2020 at 12:25 am
Sylvie, The Greenhouse
on Jun 2, 2020 at 12:25 am
Like this comment

Enact a 3-6-month budget cycle during these unique times, that overall cuts staff but enables flexibility with where/how those staff are deployed. Yes, understood that it is not easy, but with the brain trust in Palo Alto it is not impossible. No point providing budget to services that cannot be rendered during the Covid-19 pandemic. Why provide budget to the Children's Theatre, Libraries, and park maintenance when no one can use those services? Cut park maintenance to a minimum while we are dealing with this crisis.

Police and fire services should not be cut no matter what.

Adopt a mindset that provide flexibility in the budgeting in these continually changing times.


Green Gables
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2020 at 1:18 pm
Green Gables, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2020 at 1:18 pm
7 people like this

The 70 positions being cut by the lovely City of Palo Alto are probably those people who are either retiring or quitting. No big deal.


Bob
Midtown
on Jun 2, 2020 at 7:07 pm
Bob, Midtown
on Jun 2, 2020 at 7:07 pm
8 people like this

Eight million dollars wasted on a bike boulevard on Ross that neighbors opposed... how about stop squandering our tax money in order to stay within budget?


Rick
Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 3, 2020 at 9:47 am
Rick, Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 3, 2020 at 9:47 am
10 people like this

I'm with Bob,

Shakida has wasted -millions- on projects the residents of this town did not want and has made no move to scrape that unwanted infrastructure from our previously wide, leafy, and safe streets. Are we continuing to build that bike bridge and waste yet more of OUR money? Ridiculous!


Resident
Downtown North
on Jun 5, 2020 at 12:50 am
Resident, Downtown North
on Jun 5, 2020 at 12:50 am
13 people like this

Palo Alto residents should be concerned about how City of Palo Alto and Mayor Adrian Fine have decided to cut deeply and get rid of it's rental space at Cubberly. By removing their contract with Cubberly, PAUSD Superintendent has supported a budget where current non-profit tenants at Cubberly are all kicked out.

All under the excuse of COVID budget deficit, Mayor Adrian Fine supported getting rid of the Cubberly agreement that City Manager Ed Shakida suggested, which then allowed PAUSD superintendent to approve of a budget which got rid of all the remaining tenants at Cubberly.

Think through the impact. All those wonderful services at Cubberly serving our community, from Seniors, to families, to children, to youth, are all kicked out.

Is this the type of City we want? Getting rid of non-profits and their presence in Palo Alto, where they serve the city residents? But big infrastructure projects are continuing.

Take a look at last year's salary (The list was endless so only copied a little bit of it).
Salaries of public employees are all public and listed on the internet.
Check it out.

Web Link

Mayor Adrian Fine refuses to renegotiate the contract and City Manager Ed Shakida certainly won't. But if every overpaid City of Palo Alto employee who makes over $250,000 per year took a 10% pay cut, Cubberley rental space and agreement would be in place with PAUSD and nonprofits would not be kicked out unceremoniously by PAUSD.

Look at the list of overpaid city employees who do a job that is barely acceptable at best (if you agree with 10 day curfews that cross into our civil liberties):

Palo Altans need to take a closer look at the salaries and union contracts our Mayor Adrian Fine signed off on and approved and refuse to re-negotiate during time of crisis and deficit.
Web Link

The salaries are all public and online from last year onwards.

Web Link

Follow the money. We're being taken for a ride.

LAST YEAR:
City manager earned $569,799.60

City Attorney earned $460,604.29 (did she do her job with 10 day curfew that we all loved?)

Battalion Chief made $457,648.08 including OVERTIME PAY of $112,965.28
Police Sarg. made $454,780.86 including OVERTIME PAY of $145,745.68
Police Agent made $449,623.23 including OVERTIME PAY of $164,175.73
Police CHIEF JONSEN made $417,065.24
Fire Chief made 406,942.06
Police Captain made $403,020.36
Police Captain made $399,666.65
Police Sarg. made $391,021.05 including OVERTIME PAY of $50,461.27
Battalion Chief made $390,814.87 including OVERTIME PAY of $85,838.40
Police Sarg. made $380,594.01 including OVERTIME PAY of $33,927.78
Police Lieut. made $379,682.31
Utilities Director made $379,360.70
Police Agent made $378,232.17 including OVERTIME PAY of $79,975.23
Deputy Chief Fire Marshall made $375,850.65
Police Lieut. made $373,788.52
EMT made $372,534.76 including OVERTIME PAY of $106,408.73
Police Sarg. made $371,889.54 including OVERTIME PAY of $46,840.40
Fire Inspector/EMT made $371,038.09 including OVERTIME PAY of $78,579.18
Fire Captain/EMT made $364,537.28 including OVERTIME PAY of $78,070.25
Battalion Chief made $364,203.82 including OVERTIME PAY of $3,189.12
Police Lieut made $363,180.45
Police Sarg made $361,349.34 including OVERTIME PAY of $26,760.76
Police Sarg made $359,941.40 including OVERTIME PAY of $39,183.51

Assistant CITY Manager made $359,819.05
Fire Captain made $356,305.92 including OVERTIME PAY of $68,896.37
Police Sarg made $354,694.14 including OVERTIME PAY of $31,700.15

Director PLANNING made $353,083.18

Utility System Operator made $352,383.20 incl. OVERTIME PAY of $110,723.44

Police Sarg made $352,032.89 including OVERTIME PAY of $36,229.71
Fire Captain made $348,988.54 including OVERTIME PAY of $71,929.88

DIRECTOR of HR made $347,843.99
Fire Captain made $347,788.46 including OVERTIME PAY of $60,378.95
Police Lieut made $347,618.80
Battalion Chief made $347,259.32 including OVERTIME PAY of $33,638.05

CHIEF assistant CITY Attorney made $341,829.79 (did THIS Person look at the 10 day curfew that City Attorney apparently didn't look at???!!)

Attorney + Chief assistant City attorney salaries combined together are
460K + 340K = over $700,000 yet we had a 10 day curfew put in and none of these Attorneys did a once over of the 10 day curfew?!

This speaks to the level of spending and non-accountability of tax payer funds.

The Mayor Adrian Fine and City Manager Ed Shakida, full compliance with PAUSD's Superintendent have ensured all the non-profit organizations are being kicked out of Palo Alto.

Remember this when you go to vote for CC in November or PAUSD Board of Trustees who hired the Superintendent.

Go to this website and check out the city employee salaries.

Web Link

Then consider who is blasting Diana for writing up a city employee perk.
Follow the money.

the salaries continue on for pages for people who made more than $300,000 per year.

Even if every single person took a 5% or 10% pay cut, our deficit likely would disappear given the salaries.

Guess who is not suggesting that. Oh. Our city manager Ed Shakida who was compensated for OVER HALF A MILLION dollars in salary LASST YEAR.

But we tolerate gaffes and incompetence and "inexperience"


Resident
Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2020 at 12:02 pm
Resident, Old Palo Alto
on Jun 6, 2020 at 12:02 pm
7 people like this

It is time for residents of every city in the U.S.A. to protest where their taxes are being wasted. Overgenerous pensions reform is a must in this country. There are employees who retired from cities at age 55 and are receiving almost as much as when they were working. It's a corrupt system. We, the residents and taxpayers, have to make up any losses of the union's funds. High property and sales tax, especially in California, are eating up the American dream. In Alameda, the sales tax is 9.75%.
To buy a car outside of the county, the purchase would still be based on the residential address tax rate. There's no escape. Most people who work hard in private sectors will never be able to get ahead.


Stewart Carl
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2020 at 1:08 pm
Stewart Carl, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2020 at 1:08 pm
20 people like this

Sell the art the city has in storage for the proposed new police building and use the proceeds to fund arts programs for children.


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