News

Facing another bleak budget season, City Council prepares to cut services

Finance Committee to begin reviewing each department's budget Tuesday

The College Terrace Library would be one of three Palo Alto libraries closed to the public under the proposed city budget for fiscal year 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

With the city still reeling from the economic wreckage of the COVID-19 pandemic, Palo Alto's elected leaders kicked off on Monday a contentious budget season by allocating funds to nonprofit groups that provide critical social services and scaling down a popular road-improvement project that had been nearly two decades in the making.

At the same time, most members of the City Council strongly pushed back against a proposal from City Manager Ed Shikada to cut funding from popular youth programs such as Children's Theatre and the Children's Library.

The Monday hearings were the council's first chance to offer feedback on Shikada's budget, which includes a general fund of $205.5 million. He proposes to save money by keeping three neighborhood libraries closed throughout the year, eliminating city funding for Palo Alto Art Center, reducing public support for the Children's Theatre, cutting five police patrol positions and instituting constant "brownouts" at Fire Station 2.

"We really wish we had a better proposal for the City Council to consider," Shikada said Monday. "By all means — we really regret having to bring forward discussion of program cuts, of resource reductions and the impacts that we know that has throughout the community for really endeared programs that are greatly valued by many members of our community.

"Nonetheless, we are meeting our Charter obligations to bring forward a budget that is balanced and that reflects recognition of expected revenues, expected expenses and the services that can be provided as the result."

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The budget also makes it clear that the fiscal situation would have been even more bleak if not for federal assistance. Palo Alto is slated to receive about $12.5 million in stimulus funding through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, money that will be spread out over the next two years and that will help pay for COVID-19-related expenses. A key decision that the Finance Committee and, ultimately, the council will have to make in the coming weeks is: How much of this federal funding should be used to plug the hole in fiscal year 2022 — thereby averting some of the cuts in Shikada's proposed budget — and how much should be saved for the following year?

The council also allocated funding from a smaller but no less critical pot of federal funding — the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program that is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and that supports social service programs targeting low-income residents and populations deemed to have special needs, including individuals who are homeless or have disabilities.

As part of the CDBG process, the city is distributing $738,920 in federal funds. Some of the largest allocations will go to Ravenswood Family Health Network, which is set to receive $300,000 for construction of an accessible ramp for individuals with disabilities, and the Downtown Streets Team, which is set to get $160,477 in support of its workforce development programs. That is less than half of the funding that the nonprofit, which provides support services to homeless individuals, had requested for its work-development program.

The council agreed to allocate funding for Downtown Streets Team despite the nonprofit's steadfast refusal over the past year to provide documents relating to allegations of sexual misconduct by top executives, including CEO Eileen Richardson. At a March hearing, Richardson told the city's Human Relations Commission that the past year has been the most difficult one in the organization's 16-year history.

In addition to facing allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple former employees and grappling with the impacts of the pandemic, Richardson told the Human Relations Commission that she has been battling cancer and that she received her final chemotherapy treatment in March.

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She also pledged to provide more information to the city, including documentation about all new policies that nonprofit had adopted to address concerns about employee misconduct. Despite getting some funding from the city, Richardson said Downtown Streets Team will have to scale back its services in the coming year, though it has no intention of leaving the city.

"We'd have to cut staff," Richardson said. "Then, we'd come back bigger and stronger next year."

The Opportunity Center, which opened in 2006, helped provide case management services during the Covid-19 pandemic. The City Council agreed on May 3 to approve about $30,000 in grant funding for LifeMoves, the nonprofit that runs the facility. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

The city is also providing $31,545 to LifeMoves, the nonprofit that runs the Opportunity Center and that provides case management and other support services to homeless individuals and $65,340 to Rebuilding Together Peninsula, an organization that provides safety-related home repair services to low-income individuals, as well as smaller groups to other area nonprofits.

While council members were unanimous in approving the CDBG funding, they struggled to reach a consensus when it came time to discussing capital spending. Responding to direction from the council to identify additional $2.5 million in cuts in infrastructure projects in the current fiscal year, city staff proposed deferring a portion of the Charleston-Arastradero streetscape project to a future year. The city still plans to proceed with the most critical part of the project's next phase: improvements in the areas around El Camino Real and Middlefield Road.

The proposal drew opposition from bike advocates and parents who have been lobbying for the project for years. Penny Ellson, a leading supporter for the Charleston-Arastradero project, was part of a group of residents who urged the council to stick with its plan and complete the project, rather than split it up and defer a portion of it to a future year.

"The safety problems in this corridor are well documented," Ellson said. "We have a solution. Twenty years is long enough. Let's just do it."

Some council members supported her position, with Vice Mayor Pat Burt and council member Greer Stone both arguing that the city can find savings in other projects.

"I'm just baffled why there was a notion of a necessity to drop from this plan a critical project that is focused on the safety of children, when that was far beyond the council direction," Burt said. "And a project that has been committed to by multiple councils, delayed multiple times — and each time, each year we have injury accidents with children in these two critical areas, most of all in the greater El Camino and Middlefield area."

Burt's plan to retain the project in its entirety was narrowly shot down, with the council voting 4-3 to follow staff's recommendation and defer the final portion of the project — a segment of Charleston Road between Charleston Court and San Antonio Road — to a future phase. While Stone and council member Greg Tanaka joined Burt, the rest of their colleagues supported the staff proposal.

Those who supported the change pointed to the city's dismal financial outlook. Even with the Bay Area cautiously emerging from a year of shutdowns, Shikada's budget assumes that Palo Alto's sales tax revenues will be 23% lower than in pre-pandemic years and that its hotel tax revenues — a critical sources of infrastructure spending — will be 67% lower.

"There's no joy in this," council member Eric Filseth just before the vote. "But this is a conversation we'll have over and over again in the next several weeks. … We're going to run out of money before we run out of important stuff to invest in."

Naama Green, center left, and Adele Lanier, right, rehearse with fellow students in the two-week-long Theatre Academy summer camp at the Palo Alto Children's Theatre on July 17, 2017. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

The council was more aligned when it came to additional cuts to popular youth programs such as Children's Theatre — cuts that just about every council member publicly opposed. Dozens of residents, including young actors and their parents, urged the council in letters and in public testimony to retain funding for the theater. Juliana St. Peter, 12, was among those who testified about the important role that the Children's Theatre plays in her life.

"I found my people and my place and I really don't want to let go," St. Peter said Monday. "The theater doesn't just serve the community by providing entertainment. It's a safe place for kids to hang out during the summer and it's place for families to gather and celebrate the accomplishments of their kids."

Stone, a history teacher, was one of several council members who underscored the heavy mental toll that the pandemic has taken on local youth and suggested he will oppose further cuts to the theater and to other popular youth programs.

"As an educator, I've witnessed first-hand the deleterious effect that this pandemic and the shelter-in-place order has had on our community's youth," Stone said. "I think it's incumbent on us, as city leaders, to do all we can to protect the health, safety and emotional well-being of our youth and support those programs that are serving that critical need."

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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Facing another bleak budget season, City Council prepares to cut services

Finance Committee to begin reviewing each department's budget Tuesday

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, May 4, 2021, 12:33 am

With the city still reeling from the economic wreckage of the COVID-19 pandemic, Palo Alto's elected leaders kicked off on Monday a contentious budget season by allocating funds to nonprofit groups that provide critical social services and scaling down a popular road-improvement project that had been nearly two decades in the making.

At the same time, most members of the City Council strongly pushed back against a proposal from City Manager Ed Shikada to cut funding from popular youth programs such as Children's Theatre and the Children's Library.

The Monday hearings were the council's first chance to offer feedback on Shikada's budget, which includes a general fund of $205.5 million. He proposes to save money by keeping three neighborhood libraries closed throughout the year, eliminating city funding for Palo Alto Art Center, reducing public support for the Children's Theatre, cutting five police patrol positions and instituting constant "brownouts" at Fire Station 2.

"We really wish we had a better proposal for the City Council to consider," Shikada said Monday. "By all means — we really regret having to bring forward discussion of program cuts, of resource reductions and the impacts that we know that has throughout the community for really endeared programs that are greatly valued by many members of our community.

"Nonetheless, we are meeting our Charter obligations to bring forward a budget that is balanced and that reflects recognition of expected revenues, expected expenses and the services that can be provided as the result."

The budget also makes it clear that the fiscal situation would have been even more bleak if not for federal assistance. Palo Alto is slated to receive about $12.5 million in stimulus funding through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, money that will be spread out over the next two years and that will help pay for COVID-19-related expenses. A key decision that the Finance Committee and, ultimately, the council will have to make in the coming weeks is: How much of this federal funding should be used to plug the hole in fiscal year 2022 — thereby averting some of the cuts in Shikada's proposed budget — and how much should be saved for the following year?

The council also allocated funding from a smaller but no less critical pot of federal funding — the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program that is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and that supports social service programs targeting low-income residents and populations deemed to have special needs, including individuals who are homeless or have disabilities.

As part of the CDBG process, the city is distributing $738,920 in federal funds. Some of the largest allocations will go to Ravenswood Family Health Network, which is set to receive $300,000 for construction of an accessible ramp for individuals with disabilities, and the Downtown Streets Team, which is set to get $160,477 in support of its workforce development programs. That is less than half of the funding that the nonprofit, which provides support services to homeless individuals, had requested for its work-development program.

The council agreed to allocate funding for Downtown Streets Team despite the nonprofit's steadfast refusal over the past year to provide documents relating to allegations of sexual misconduct by top executives, including CEO Eileen Richardson. At a March hearing, Richardson told the city's Human Relations Commission that the past year has been the most difficult one in the organization's 16-year history.

In addition to facing allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple former employees and grappling with the impacts of the pandemic, Richardson told the Human Relations Commission that she has been battling cancer and that she received her final chemotherapy treatment in March.

She also pledged to provide more information to the city, including documentation about all new policies that nonprofit had adopted to address concerns about employee misconduct. Despite getting some funding from the city, Richardson said Downtown Streets Team will have to scale back its services in the coming year, though it has no intention of leaving the city.

"We'd have to cut staff," Richardson said. "Then, we'd come back bigger and stronger next year."

The city is also providing $31,545 to LifeMoves, the nonprofit that runs the Opportunity Center and that provides case management and other support services to homeless individuals and $65,340 to Rebuilding Together Peninsula, an organization that provides safety-related home repair services to low-income individuals, as well as smaller groups to other area nonprofits.

While council members were unanimous in approving the CDBG funding, they struggled to reach a consensus when it came time to discussing capital spending. Responding to direction from the council to identify additional $2.5 million in cuts in infrastructure projects in the current fiscal year, city staff proposed deferring a portion of the Charleston-Arastradero streetscape project to a future year. The city still plans to proceed with the most critical part of the project's next phase: improvements in the areas around El Camino Real and Middlefield Road.

The proposal drew opposition from bike advocates and parents who have been lobbying for the project for years. Penny Ellson, a leading supporter for the Charleston-Arastradero project, was part of a group of residents who urged the council to stick with its plan and complete the project, rather than split it up and defer a portion of it to a future year.

"The safety problems in this corridor are well documented," Ellson said. "We have a solution. Twenty years is long enough. Let's just do it."

Some council members supported her position, with Vice Mayor Pat Burt and council member Greer Stone both arguing that the city can find savings in other projects.

"I'm just baffled why there was a notion of a necessity to drop from this plan a critical project that is focused on the safety of children, when that was far beyond the council direction," Burt said. "And a project that has been committed to by multiple councils, delayed multiple times — and each time, each year we have injury accidents with children in these two critical areas, most of all in the greater El Camino and Middlefield area."

Burt's plan to retain the project in its entirety was narrowly shot down, with the council voting 4-3 to follow staff's recommendation and defer the final portion of the project — a segment of Charleston Road between Charleston Court and San Antonio Road — to a future phase. While Stone and council member Greg Tanaka joined Burt, the rest of their colleagues supported the staff proposal.

Those who supported the change pointed to the city's dismal financial outlook. Even with the Bay Area cautiously emerging from a year of shutdowns, Shikada's budget assumes that Palo Alto's sales tax revenues will be 23% lower than in pre-pandemic years and that its hotel tax revenues — a critical sources of infrastructure spending — will be 67% lower.

"There's no joy in this," council member Eric Filseth just before the vote. "But this is a conversation we'll have over and over again in the next several weeks. … We're going to run out of money before we run out of important stuff to invest in."

The council was more aligned when it came to additional cuts to popular youth programs such as Children's Theatre — cuts that just about every council member publicly opposed. Dozens of residents, including young actors and their parents, urged the council in letters and in public testimony to retain funding for the theater. Juliana St. Peter, 12, was among those who testified about the important role that the Children's Theatre plays in her life.

"I found my people and my place and I really don't want to let go," St. Peter said Monday. "The theater doesn't just serve the community by providing entertainment. It's a safe place for kids to hang out during the summer and it's place for families to gather and celebrate the accomplishments of their kids."

Stone, a history teacher, was one of several council members who underscored the heavy mental toll that the pandemic has taken on local youth and suggested he will oppose further cuts to the theater and to other popular youth programs.

"As an educator, I've witnessed first-hand the deleterious effect that this pandemic and the shelter-in-place order has had on our community's youth," Stone said. "I think it's incumbent on us, as city leaders, to do all we can to protect the health, safety and emotional well-being of our youth and support those programs that are serving that critical need."

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

Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 4, 2021 at 6:48 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 6:48 am

I am drawn to the conclusion that our City Manager does not understand the city he manages; the proposed cuts go after the soul of Palo Alto.

Neighborhoods, youth services such as the Children's Library and the Children's Theater, our parks, our ENTIRE library system, ALL the stations in the PAFD, our restaurants and retail establishments, our safe bikeways are what has defined Palo Alto as a special community for decades. We need a budget that supports those things, not one that erodes them. Cuts that impact those things should be last on the block; look first at consultant fees, capital projects that can be deferred or even eliminated, and any administrative excess that can be trimmed.

And please address the valid issues and concerns raised at last night's CC meeting and the many comments made by Rebecca Eisenberg that impugn this city's fiscal model: too much reliance on TOT and sales tax; no tax on the large businesses that happily HQ in PA.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2021 at 7:16 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 7:16 am

Annette says it. These cuts will affect every resident at the soul of our community services. We can wait for road improvements but a toddler can't wait for a library designed just for them, or a budding thespian denied their first role in a play. Childhood is brief and when they lose out on something then it is lost forever.

Get rid of some of the people who do nothing other than write meaningless studies and recommendations as we can easily do without them, but don't wipe out youth services.


Jerry Underdal
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 4, 2021 at 9:35 am
Jerry Underdal, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 9:35 am

I strongly support completion of the entire Charleston/Arastradero project and regret the lingering uncertainty about when the final section will be funded. Thanks to Councilmembers Burt, Stone and Tanaka for urging the city manager to seek other ways to avoid uncertain funding for the last section by splitting Phase 3. But if this 4-3 decision means that the council majority have committed themselves to support completing the section from Los Palos Ave. (across from Juana Briones Park) to Alma, I think this could have a good outcome.

Of those in the majority, three came into office as part of a movement that favored keeping two car lanes in both directions for faster traffic flow and discouraged measures to accommodate bicycle and pedestrian usage. One, pointing to missteps in implementing a related project on Ross Road, came into office on a platform of pledging to closely scrutinize the Charleston/Arastradero project to be sure residents were listened to and informed in advance of work to be done. Those are four votes in favor of going ahead to finish the critical work across El Camino and the tracks, including underground utilities and a smooth surface for crossing ECR. The other three agree with that. This means that at least this part of the C/A project can move ahead without significant controversy That'll be a relief.

My expectation is that in similar fashion, there will be agreement to finish the remaining section from Middlefield to San Antonio when the budget situation brightens and public buy-in won't be hampered by the argument that completing the project comes at the expense of programs that make living in Palo Alto special.


Derek McKennon
Registered user
Stanford
on May 4, 2021 at 10:14 am
Derek McKennon, Stanford
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 10:14 am

From a municipal budgeting standpoint, doesn't infrastructure and public safety funding trump the more luxury items such as community art programs and children's recreational activities?

The parents can take it upon themselves to provide for these outlets but parents cannot repair roads or respond to police and fire calls.

This whining about cut-backs in non-essential city expenditures says a lot about some residents in Palo Alto.

It's like we want to dine at the French Laundry when all we can actually afford at this time is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Time to get real and adjust to some much-needed austerity measures.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 4, 2021 at 10:28 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 10:28 am

Please register for the Budget Town Hall this Thursday evening and submit your comments in advance to [email protected]

Date Time: May 6, 2021 06:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Echoing Annette's comments, it's critical that the city hears from US on our priorities and concerns.

Mine include dropping the costly Fiber-to-The-Home until the city can prove they can offer a more cost-effective solution than the big companies that already know how to provide decent customer service -- something the City is sorely lacking as shown during the recent power outages -- and cutting back its costly and unrealistic Climate/ Sustainability Plan that's been widely discussed here in topics dealing with Diana Diamond's blog and related articles.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2021 at 10:57 am
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 10:57 am

Yes. register for the Budget town Hall. However, I strongly recommend that people submit their comments directly to their elected representatives, NOT Meghan Horrigan, the city manager's publicity manager. You can submit your comments to your City Council representatives here [email protected] .

Our electeds are our key decision-makers. Staff should never put themselves between Council and the people. Staff gets copied on comments sent to this email address, so they will still be in the loop as they should be.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 4, 2021 at 11:01 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 11:01 am

@Consider Your Options, good point. I'll forward my comments to City Council. Thanks.


Local Resident
Registered user
Community Center
on May 4, 2021 at 11:09 am
Local Resident, Community Center
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 11:09 am

If adding fiber is coming at the expense of any of these cuts it should be deferred. Public safety needs to be the city's top priority. I think careful scrutiny should be given to staff salaries and compensation, which has become overly inflated.


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 4, 2021 at 11:14 am
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 11:14 am

And yet they gave teachers a 2% pay increase for doing hardly any teaching last year. Should have demanded they bite the bullet just like everyone else.


localmom46
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on May 4, 2021 at 11:49 am
localmom46, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 11:49 am

@What Will They Do Next- school budget does not come from the city budget. They are unrelated.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 4, 2021 at 11:59 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 11:59 am

Two points: 1) I suspect last year was exceedingly difficult for teachers and 2) Fire Station #2 is the closest to Foothills Preserve. For that reason alone it should be open and staffed at least during fire season.


Cat Mom Leonorilda
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 4, 2021 at 1:22 pm
Cat Mom Leonorilda, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 1:22 pm

Thank you to Annette for voicing concern for what really matters in Palo Alto—services that support education and well-being for youth, most of all. It's time to trim, drastically, huge consultant fees that benefit only the receivers and not the community.


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 4, 2021 at 3:26 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 3:26 pm

Thanks for correcting me localmom46.


Carol Scott
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on May 4, 2021 at 4:37 pm
Carol Scott, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 4:37 pm

Lots of service cuts, but no talk of revenue generation. Very little in terms of cost control.

Rebecca Eisenberg is correct -- why do we shy away from demanding that large businesses pay for services of any kind. It isn't just a business tax. Fine print in the budget also says that the City will decrease the cost of employee parking permits in the Downtown and Cal Ave areas and presumably in the RPP areas. What? Does the City think that high tech software employees cannot afford to pay even $5 a day to park close to their offices? The restaurant and retail workers will qualify for reduced price permits, so decent fees would not affect them. Doesn't matter where you look, the City defers to business and property owners' interests. The City is apparently suggesting that we sell our children's health and safety for less than $5/day.

The Liz Kniss-led initiative to make large businesses, property owners and large developers the top priority in Palo Alto has affected the City in many negative ways and will continue to do so for years to come. Reliance on things like the hotel tax instead of properly asking businesses to pay for the services they receive is just one issue.

And, by the way, I have never heard anything about the costs the City has incurred in the Uplift Local program and the return on this investment. There may be increased sales tax from restaurants, but you also need to consider the lost tax revenue from other retailers whose businesses have been negatively affected. This hasn't been free. Has it been worth not having a Children's Theater?


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 4, 2021 at 7:03 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 4, 2021 at 7:03 pm

“And yet they gave teachers a 2% pay increase for doing hardly any teaching last year. Should have demanded they bite the bullet just like everyone else.”
@ WWTDN
Stop with your anti-teacher/anti-union nonsense.
Teachers worked twice as hard online to keep education going during the deadliest pandemic in a century. As if the pandemic and the school closures were their fault and not the previous administrations fault for letting the disease spread uncontrolled. Did the teachers close the schools or did the Government? The pandemic is the same reason there are now budget cuts being done. Cut it out. Your comments are completely unsupportive. The teachers deserve another raise this year for their efforts. You were so quick to do an anti-teacher comment you didn’t even know it was regarding a different budget that didn’t involve the teachers. How sad. Stop being weird and crabby. Consider yourself corrected by ME.

As far as the budget cuts, I disagree with Ed cutting the children’s programs. I would rather have Ed cut his own salary before they cut the wonderful children’s library where the kids can develop a love of reading or the amazing children’s theatre program where our precious little children can express themselves. It’s not your fault Ed but leave the children alone and find a better way! Please step up your efforts on our city council and STOP Ed from doing these nonsense cuts Greer Stone! Thank you in advance.


No heat
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on May 5, 2021 at 11:53 am
No heat, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 11:53 am

We wouldn't need to cut the library, recreational services, or the fire department if we weren't making a multi-million dollar payout on the utility user tax lawsuit, or if we weren't building a new police station.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 5, 2021 at 12:08 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 12:08 pm

So where are we on the business tax??? Anyone thought of that before cutting services?

@No heat, relax. The Utility Tax lawsuit is only for one year out of all the years they've overcharged US. Besides, they city evidently considers it well work it to spend OUR money to appeal it while they continue to rake in $20,000,000 of OUR money in annual overcharges.


No heat
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on May 5, 2021 at 1:51 pm
No heat, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 1:51 pm

We can't have it both ways - the revenue from that tax lets us sustain the city services we all love. I'd rather have the tax and no refund payments than see the service cuts.


Jeremy Erman
Registered user
Midtown
on May 5, 2021 at 4:13 pm
Jeremy Erman, Midtown
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 4:13 pm

Council members have cited the utilities repayment lawsuit as one of the main reasons for the cuts. The $12 million already ordered to be repayed (although the City is appealing) covers gas rates from 2012, 2016, and 2018. I believe the City is subtracting this from the General Fund in yearly increments of $4 million, so that's $4 million in lost revenue that could have offset cuts to this budget.

Web Link


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on May 5, 2021 at 4:38 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 4:38 pm

I received a today a letter concerning the completion of the bike path project on Fabian and Charleston. Given the budget shortfalls why are we proceeding with this effort? We have other projects that are more important. How we prioritize projects in this city is really bizarre. And it is the bike projects that get assigned top priority.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2021 at 4:47 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 4:47 pm

Studies and consultant fees. High salaries and pensions. Legal fees and lawyers.

Don't make this town soulless.


Jeremy Erman
Registered user
Midtown
on May 5, 2021 at 5:08 pm
Jeremy Erman, Midtown
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 5:08 pm

Ah, there are TWO utility repayment court settlements. The 1-year one is for phone customers. What horrible timing. The city desperately needs this money.

Web Link


Jeremy Erman
Registered user
Midtown
on May 5, 2021 at 5:17 pm
Jeremy Erman, Midtown
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 5:17 pm

As much as I would have liked the $8 million spent on the bike bridge to have defrayed budget cuts, the project was already set up when the pandemic started, and much of it was paid through dedicated funding, so delaying it would not have helped the budget that much. As galling as the price tag is, having permanent pedestrian and bike access across 101 to the Baylands will be a good thing.


MA midtown
Registered user
Midtown
on May 5, 2021 at 10:12 pm
MA midtown, Midtown
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 10:12 pm

Palo Alto City Council is reviewing the City Budget over the next few weeks. There are major cuts proposed for youth and children services. Please take a minute to read and sign this petition-
Web Link
Here are two additional ways to participate in the conversation-
1. Please attend and speak at the Budget Town Hall - FY 2021-22 Budget Discussion: Thursday, May 6, at 6 p.m.
Register Here: Web Link
2. Please fill out the survey released by the City (it took me about 5-8 minutes to fill out the survey and currently there are only 28 responses:-please add your voice!):
Web Link
Other upcoming Community Engagement Opportunities for the FY 2021-22 Budget Flyer with details-
Finance Committee Budget Hearings: May 11, 12, 25, all hearings begin at 9 a.m.
Finance Committee Update at City Council: May 17, at 5 p.m.
City Council Budget Adoption: June 21, at 5 p.m.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 5, 2021 at 11:34 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 5, 2021 at 11:34 pm

There may be a good reason only 28 people completed the survey. I tried and this is the error message I got:

" Home / 404...Oops!
404...Oops!

Did you try the new search bar? If you are reaching this page after coming from Google or another search engine, try using our website's search bar."


I wasn't "coming Google or another search engine" m-- just following the link above -- but tried searching the city's much-touted new web site with whatever search engine it uses and and only found an item about a 2020 budget survey. Other pointers appreciated.


Rebecca Eisenberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 6, 2021 at 2:49 am
Rebecca Eisenberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 2:49 am

As I said in the meeting (all meetings), Palo Alto's budget woes are not caused by too much spending. Yes, Ed Shikada and Molly Stump are overpaid, but that is not the biggest driver of our deficit.

What is moving the needle is on the Revenue side. Why is Palo Alto operating on a deficit while cities like Redwood City and Mountain View have a surplus? It is NOT because those cities spend less than us -- on the contrary. It is because every other city leverages revenue streams that are more sustainable and strong than hotel tax and sales tax. Palo Alto's reliance on TOT and sales always has been ludicrous.

Here is what all peer cities are doing, that Palo Alto is not:

1. Large company business tax. Given that the state, county, and Palo Alto all have been in a state of emergency since March, 2020, Palo Alto City Council has had the opportunity to put an Emergency Large Company Business on the ballot for 14 months. It has not. Every business tax presented to voters in nearby cities in the past year have been passed with voter approval of approx. 75-80% and zero opposition from the businesses to be taxed. Tax measures in other cities generate between $30 million and $1.2 billion annually. This money has been reinvested into communities, e.g. for small businesses and infrastructure. Palo Alto CC refuses.

2. Code enforcement. Every other city has a department that enforces code violations by commercial developers and levies fines. Palo Alto's municipal code provides for fines of $500 per violation per day. But Palo Alto CC defunded and dismantled the office of enforcement -- **even though it was revenue-positive**.

3. State funding. The state of CA gave away $850 to cities for affordable housing projects in 2020 but PA refused to apply. This year the State is giving away $1.5 billion. It's called the HomeKey project. Recently there was a large mental health grant that Palo Alto refused to apply for. PACC refuses to take free money.

They are ruining Palo Alto.


Paly Grad
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 6, 2021 at 8:43 am
Paly Grad, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 8:43 am

Mtn. View business tax:

Web Link


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 6, 2021 at 9:15 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 9:15 am

Re why there's no business tax, a witty friend said, "Because PA still operates under the Kniss Doctrine" -- everything for businesses, developers and business-friendly lobbyists, the rest of us not so much,


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2021 at 9:21 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 9:21 am

Add to this the article posted today about the $18 admission/entrance fee to the new Childrens Zoo.

As they say, "Palo Alto has lost the plot".


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on May 6, 2021 at 10:54 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 10:54 am

I looked at the cities blog on how it advertises itself. Primary was the Children's Theatre and Zoo. Secondary was the SU campus and it's events. A city makes a choice on what it's outstanding locations are for visitors. If the Children's Theater is on the list then fund it. That is an identified tourist attraction for visitors as well as a whole educational environment for our children.

Are bike paths on the list? NO The South Palo Alto Bikeway Project - Alma, East Meadow, Fabien Way from Charleston to West Bayshore. That is a lot of road work - big bucks. Needed now? NO
Our priorities are out of whack.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2021 at 2:24 pm
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 2:24 pm

to Resident 1--I'm sure the many people who have been hit by speeding cars on that road would disagree with you. Maybe you don't ride a bike or have never been hit by a car, so you cannot relate to the problem. However, street safety for all community residents, to my mind, should be a top priority for the city.

On the Charleston-Arastradero approach to the El Camino Real seven-lane state highway crossing, the bike lanes completely disappear, forcing people on bikes to merge with traffic or ride on the sidewalk where they bother people who walk. Even very skilled, experienced bicyclists have difficulty at this intersection. Drivers, on the other hand are presently provided THREE full auto lanes in the each direction (auto lanes are much wider than a bike lane, I might add). This is a school commute route. It would help if thoughtful adult drivers could support sharing some of the road real estate with people who are too young to drive and people who choose zero emissions, foot-powered commutes.

The Fabian-to-San Antonio segment is really bad. The pavement is practically rubble, the bike lanes disappear at Fabian and don't resume until you hit the Mountain View border. The bike lane narrows as you round the blind curve in the road on the eastbound Fabian approach. Again, very challenging, even for very experienced riders, to merge with auto traffic in these high volume areas.

Middlefield/Charle is one of the more dangerous intersections in the city for people who walk and bike. The collision counts there should make us all ashamed. Again, this is a school route. Can we all please take a moment to consider this more carefully? More than half of all PAUSD students walk or bike to school. They deserve a safe route.

I drive, too; but I still think that we need a street system that enables people of all ages nd abilities to walk and bike safely. Not everyone can drive. Some people don't want to. Their safety and freedom to move about matters too.


Bill Bucy
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 8, 2021 at 12:02 pm
Bill Bucy, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 8, 2021 at 12:02 pm

I bet the writers here and PA residents in general would be more willing to accept cuts to favorite programs if general overhead - i.e., our expensive city staff - would also be pared. I haven't seen a proposals for that. Coupled with R. Eisenberg's suggestion for more sustainable income sources and we might be able to have both cops and kids' programs.


Richard
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 8, 2021 at 1:34 pm
Richard, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 8, 2021 at 1:34 pm

Maybe if we had police ticket all the runners of red lights they'd make up the shortfall. Of course that's an exaggeration, but just another general safety issue that gets no attention while some other staff get paid; for what? Making bad decisions and losing the plot, to coin a phrase. :)


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 8, 2021 at 4:05 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 8, 2021 at 4:05 pm

Speaking of police giving out tickets, how many vehicles were ticketed under Ms. Kniss's anti-idling regulation and how much money flowed into the city coffer$?

I used to joke cops just needed to follow all the double-parked, idling delivery vans and we could balance the budget and eradicate the unfunded pension liabilities.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 8, 2021 at 5:57 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 8, 2021 at 5:57 pm

I wish the "like" button was still active as I would "like" the comment by Bill Bucy.

As for the telephone refund and the utility tax eventual refund, the timing is indeed lousy. I'd go along with the option of forfeiting the refund in exchange for retaining specific services, particularly if we can direct the funds, but for one wrinkle: does that achieve the purpose of the City learning a needed lesson: STOP the practices that lead to costly lawsuits. Talk about a waste of time and money!

We have a robust City Staff and we are told again and again that the salaries paid are justified b/c we hire the best. Why, then, do we still rely heavily on costly consultants? And why do residents have to pay as much attention as we do to what is being decided at City Hall? This should not be as necessary as it is. FWIW, I appreciate that there are people like Rebecca Eisenberg in our community who pay close attention and speak up with reasonable suggestions.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 8, 2021 at 6:14 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 8, 2021 at 6:14 pm

Good points. Instead of "forfeiting the refund" how about deferring /postponing it in return for restoring the cut services WITH the condition that the City never again engages in the practices that result in these costly lawsuits. If they do, stiff penalties would apply PLUS interest accruing from the date WE deferred /postponed payment.

In return for OUR generosity, the City will reduce its use of consultants, engage in better/smarter management practices -- ie considering price elasticity for the Junior Museum when imposing fees, use CURRENT population figures when producing Traffic Management Demand rather than 20-yr-old numbers -- AND immediately impose a big business tax.

Additionally, no more offices that displace sales-tax-generating retail, cause more congestion, up our housing targets etc.

Finally, bring to a vote the Climate/Sustainability Plan and Fiber-to-the-Home plans that are costly, will require hiring MORE consultants. At least table then until the city gets its finances in order.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on May 10, 2021 at 3:18 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on May 10, 2021 at 3:18 pm

If you have not paid attention there will be major building on Fabien - that is construction equipment and heavy machinery. The SSL location has been bought up by the same company that is buying up any and all land in PA. I am sure with their own agenda the old buildings will be torn down and replaced. And there are plans for the apartment complex on the corner of Charleston and Fabien. With all of the disruption and heavy equipment why would the city spend time and money on a bike path that is going to get trashed in the process. That should be a budget item in the later years after the construction business on Fabien is completed. Any street planning has to e done in context of what else is happening in that same location. Stove-piping projects is not good planning.


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