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Budget cuts would hit public safety response, recreation options in Palo Alto

Original post made on May 8, 2020

Palo Alto would reduce police and fire staffing, close a library, pare down its recreation classes and cut more than 100 positions under a proposal from City Manager Ed Shikada, which aims to reduce expenses by more than $40 million.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 8, 2020, 3:22 PM

Comments (85)

Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 8, 2020 at 5:36 pm

Oh really there are consequences to SIP? , what a shock I would have never guessed. You mean if I have a job, can Zoom from home and order everything online that perhaps someday there might be consequences to me from our local budgets being cut.

And now citizens of Palo Alto realize , perhaps there are tradeoffs to shutting down our economy, lowering tax revenues and now the end game cutting or removing services. Gee what surprise

Posted by no surprise
a resident of College Terrace
on May 8, 2020 at 8:52 pm

It is no surprise that local leaders are proposing the first cuts in services that will clearly negatively impact the city's population, rather than, i.e. starting with modest across-the-board to salary cuts for city workers, as most local companies have been doing. This predictable approach is designed to get people's attention so that they're willing to pay increased taxes to avoid the cuts.

Posted by Cut the Waste
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 8, 2020 at 9:01 pm

The city has tried this game before. This time, it proposes to close major services like an entire library and have no evening library hours anywhere in North Palo Alto.

Instead, it ought to cut all the analysts, consultants, contractors, report writers, marketing and communication staff, and other non-vital people in the back offices.

And how about eliminating all the fancy graphics the city keeps mailing out? A contract on Monday's Council's agenda for marketing materials for our utilities is for more than the cost of keeping open the College Terrace Library. For heaven's sake .. which is more important?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 8, 2020 at 9:14 pm

Rather than eliminating traffic enforcement which might generate some revenue, why not cut the road furniture budget and other questionable "traffic calming" nonsense?

Where are the cuts to the major building projects -- new fire stations, new police building, parking garages, Cubberly, etc. etc. -- which always come in late and over-budget?

Where are the cuts to the budget for consultants?

Why aren't city workers making over $300,000 taking a salary cut?

Are you dropping the "downtown revitalization" project since downtown is mainly an office park rarely frequented by residents?

Are you cutting the programs where we pay people to carpool here and take public transit to work here and force us to buy residential parking permits?

We could all keep listing obvious omissions but I don't see any cuts to BUSINESS services? Speaking of which, how much have the new big businesses contributed to non-profits, small businesses etc?

Maybe some of the bog businesses like Google could pay for that bike bridge used mainly by their workers?

Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on May 8, 2020 at 9:59 pm

Palo Alto is paying the price for not building up its property tax base. Mountain View and Redwood City have budgets that are in relatively good shape compared to Palo Alto.

That said, they really need to work with the employees to implement rolling furloughs, so they don’t have to permanently lay off people that will be needed in 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years.

Posted by too many chiefs
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 8, 2020 at 10:11 pm

we suggest that the city greatly reduce its own staff and employees before ever touching a hand to the police and fire department. does anyone--including the mayor think they are more important that the first-responders? that is ludicrous. the City council, mayor and administrators have done more damage to the City of Palo Alto than ever. This used to be a fun-relaxed city where neighbors and citizens would say hi to each other. Now, all we see is stress, traffic, over-building, poor money management,and worthless projects that are pouring money into the administrators pockets. Don't even think about reducing the police and fire department staff.

Posted by Desecration
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 8, 2020 at 11:22 pm

Whole sale bank role!

Posted by Chief make too much money
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 9, 2020 at 5:07 am

400k for a police officer
300k for a firefighter
400k for the unelected city manager

Librarians get laid off instead of those salaries being reduced. [Portion removed.] Palo Alto is an artsy place full of thought and wonder

Send the tech jobs elsewhere those people think we are here to serve them

Posted by Reality
a resident of Mountain View
on May 9, 2020 at 7:40 am

It saddens me to read this, as regretfully the entire Bay Area will find itself in this predicament.

Shutting down the economy is trading one problem for another, arguably, with a much larger radius. It will get worse before it gets better. And that's assuming we are "allowed" to let it get better.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 9, 2020 at 8:10 am

Recreation options are very necessary for our mental health. We have had very little recreational opportunities outside our homes over the past two months.
Walking on sidewalks even on pleasant, leafy Palo Alto streets, is not the same as being able to hike in the hills or the Baylands where we can see nature and feel the clean air in our lungs.

As an aside, we have been doing our best to find new activities. Children are drawing hopscotch on their driveways and concrete areas in parks. I have seen more rollerblades in the past two months than I have seen in the past 10 years. But socialization and recreation are things that would normally go hand in hand, and meeting a friend to socialize is recreation in itself.

Recreational activities in Palo Alto are limited. We have lost many amenities such as the bowling alley, laserquest, twisters gym, etc. nearby. We do have the Winter Lodge for ice skating. Perhaps now is not the time any of these could be useful, but the pandemic will not last for ever and recreation is so important.

We are social beings. We are a people who need more than places to sleep and an address for deliveries.

When this gets even slightly more back to normal, it will be a new normal. It will be a long time before things like theaters, sports stadiums, and even church services, can be done the way they have been done before. The new normal will mean that we spend even more time staring at screens to watch the arts, to be entertained, to watch sports, to worship, and even to socialize.

Cutting recreational spending will put us more at risk from the boredom and stress, that will lead to suicide, alcohol/drugs, depression and anger issues. Mental health problems will put many on medications, rather than the previous free medicine of a walk in the fresh air in nature, or the ability to watch a concert with like minded people or experience the shared experiences of a chili cookoff, fireworks, or a parade.

Public Safety and Recreation are not items that should be reduced and in fact ways of increasing them should be invoked.

If money needs to be spent, let's get rid of the many, many administrators that do nothing at all except push paper from one desk to another after signing their name. We can do without such administration. We have suffered the additional administrators in new invented position over the past couple of decades. If every official who earns their pay from the public coffer was deemed less "essential" than someone whose job is on the line for public safety, we might find where our priorities altering. If we value quality of life over tax revenues, we might find the value in recreation rather than pen/paper pushing. If we acknowledged too many chiefs and not enough indians, we might find where to make some savings.

Posted by Connect The Dots
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 9, 2020 at 8:53 am

In essence, Palo Alto residents are being punished for the fiscal mismanagement of the city officials.

So what does that tell you about the city council and its hiring of various city administrators?

Are the aforementioned entities doing a good job that reflects the best interests of their constituency/residents?

Posted by Budget Massacre
a resident of Downtown North
on May 9, 2020 at 9:30 am

Police and Fire and bloated too. They play the same game of "cut one penny and we will ensure it's terrible for you." They already did by saying they'd cut traffic enforcement

Notice how many police vehicles we see circling now that coffee shops are closed? Seems like we have plenty cops to enforce traffic, when they work.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 9, 2020 at 9:52 am

The new raises for staff total almost $6,000,000 -- and that's before that additional amount gets factored into our unfunded pension liabilities. That's also the equivalent of 72.28 librarians which I mention since the city seems obsessed with cutting libraries and library services as one of it's more "newsworthy" false economies.

As Ms. Kniss said, "Charity begins at home" but evidently only if you're on the city payroll and not if you're a taxpayer paying for this charity while OUR services get cut due to false economies.

Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on May 9, 2020 at 10:14 am

Palo Alto isn't unique; the whole state is losing part of its budget. Time to repeal Prop 13?

Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on May 9, 2020 at 10:28 am

Too many chiefs,

Please study the city budget. You will soon realize that you cannot cut $39 million without making serious cuts to police and fire, because they make up such a large proportion of the total budget. You need to propose SPECIFIC ADDITIONAL cuts to other areas if you want fewer reductions to police and fire.

Posted by Myron
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 9, 2020 at 1:12 pm

Palo Alto has roughly around 50,000 to 75,000 people coming into the city (Monday thru Friday) during the day for work. So why do we need the same amount of firefighters working at night? I bet if you compare the amount of 911 calls, it drops significantly after 8pm. Reduce the fire staffing levels after 8pm by half.

Posted by Concerned resident
a resident of Barron Park
on May 9, 2020 at 1:48 pm

There is plenty of discussion about the high salaries and pensions of top-earning City employees. This is not the situation for many City staff, however. Please spare a thought for the non-union, part-time, hourly employees who are by far the most vulnerable staff right now and are the most likely to face possible layoffs. They are already the lowest-paid workers on the City payroll with the fewest benefits, and they are sure to be first in line for job losses. There are actually many City employees who do not have union representation or generous pensions to protect them. And they are most likely to be the people you encounter shelving books at your local library. They are the crossing guards who protect your children, they are the safety dispatchers who take your call when you dial 911 at night. They are the people who work the evening and weekend shifts at various community locations which will now have their opening hours reduced or be closed entirely. They are also the people who have everything to lose if they lose their jobs. It's easy for the City to lay these people off because they have few rights to begin with, while the unionised, full-time staff protect themselves, and the city residents also suffer as a result through loss of key amenities and services.

Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 9, 2020 at 2:06 pm

Traffic enforcement is the solution to balancing the budget. Start ticketing everyone driving 30+ MPH (20%+ OVER the legal limit) on Embarcadero, Middlefield and University. Do it with traffic cameras if necessary. At $500 per ticket, the city would need to write about 160 tickets per day to balance the budget. Meanwhile, there are more than 160 speeders per hour on most of those streets during a normal work day.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Ventura
on May 9, 2020 at 2:23 pm

Just did some extensive analysis of the budget, and found it very easy to cut non-critical expenses.

Proposed cuts:
* Pause capital construction not yet started: public safety building and fire station 4. The budgets conveniently don't show their amounts, but assuming these are 80% of our capital improvements these will save $67M
* Pause IT Capital Improvement (cut capital budget 90%, IT budget still at over $25M), saves $7M
* Citywide Administration to trim Overhead from $23.5M by 25% to 17.6M. Savings: $5.9M.

Done: We've saved $80M off the budget!

Put this to a popular vote: Do we want libraries, police (including traffic enforcement), and fire, or is it important to break ground on expensive capital projects?


Our budget is approximately:
__ General Fund: $230M __
+ Safety: Police & Fire: $80M.
+ Planning, Transportation, Infra: $34M. (includes streets, sidewalks, trees, public works)
+ Community & Library Services (includes parks, rec, arts, golf, etc): $42M.
+ Citywide Administration: $74M. Only 8M of this is on repair & maintenance. Compare with 11M on city officials, 8.5M on finance, 4M on human resources. ($23.5M of overhead)

__ Capital Budget $191.5M ___
+ 45% on improvements ($86M):
- Downtown automated parking guidance systems - we won't need this for a long time!
- Fire station 4 replacement, scheduled for late 2020 - why not pause this?
- Public safety building, scheduled for late 2020 - why not pause?
+ 3.5% on Vehicle replacement. Why not pause new vehicle purchases for a year or two?
+ 4.1% on "Technology". Last I checked, we had an egregiously priced multi-million dollar contract for upgraded computers in the city council chambers. Last I went there, everything appeared brand new and fully functioning. Pause or stop this extravagance!

1. The city's published budget summary: Web Link

2. And OpenGov's budget view:

Posted by Essential
a resident of Downtown North
on May 9, 2020 at 4:14 pm

Maybe all this is a good thing in a way. It shows that essential workers in health care are truly essential and can not really telecommute. They need to live where they work. Jobs that can be done anywhere can reduce greenhouse gases by telecommuting. This is the way it used to be before companies paid a stipend to live near the workplace. It created problems in housing, transportation, health, and quality of life.

Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on May 9, 2020 at 4:29 pm

@Anon, thanks so much for the excellent work!

Next year will be The Year of Tax.

State will raise income tax again. Probably gas tax too. Cities will raise sales tax again. Probably various fees too. Palo Alto Utility will raise electricity rates and garbage rates. School District will again float a bond measure and parcel tax...

Prop 13 repeal too.

Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on May 9, 2020 at 5:08 pm

There should not be a single penny of cuts to public services before public sector employees give up defined benefit pensions.

Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on May 9, 2020 at 5:11 pm

" Budget cuts" code word for, We are getting our raises before S hits the fan...

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 9, 2020 at 8:04 pm

The police department should be cut in half or contracted out to the country as Stanford does. Don't build the new police station.

The current budget for the police department is about $50 million. You could get most of the needed savings from there.

What are the police doing now? There is very little traffic and very little crime.

However, 2 blocks from the police station in Lytton Plaza, with signs all over the place saying the picnic area is closed, almost all the tables are filled. If the police can't bother to get 2 blocks from the police station to enforce the signage, I would say we don't need them.

Posted by Eli
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 9, 2020 at 8:28 pm

Glad we got all the million dollar bike paths all painted up and the speed bumps all in with the drought resistant plants. What with the high cost of gas and all...

Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on May 9, 2020 at 9:22 pm

Palo Alto City budget of $420M is roughly the same as Cambridge, Massachusetts, home of Harvard and MIT.

Sounds alright? No! Cambridge has about twice the population of Palo Alto.

We have been taxed way too much. Where did all the money go???

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 9, 2020 at 9:49 pm


You seriously misread the Palo Alto financials. Its general fund is running about $220 million, before cuts, not the figure you quoted.

Posted by CT resident
a resident of College Terrace
on May 9, 2020 at 11:04 pm

Can someone remind me why we're building an entirely new fancy police headquarters when the police already have a fine headquarters location, but have to close a library?

Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2020 at 12:06 am

@chris, I don't think so. I'm comparing the total budget of Palo Alto and Cambridge(minus its school district budget).

Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2020 at 12:14 am

Another comparison is Sugar Land, Texas, an upscale suburb of Houston. Sugar Land median family income $109K, Palo Alto $147K. But Sugar Land has twice the population of Palo Alto.

Sugar Land general fund budget is less than $100M. Palo Alto is $230M.

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 10, 2020 at 1:35 am

These cuts are the DIRECT consequence of decades of prioritization of the City Council of commercial developers/office space and tax-exempt special interest projects boosted by big money donors (like Castilleja, which occupies 33 residentially zoned lots, pays no taxation whatsoever, and has not been asked to pay its legally required penalties for 15 years of violation of its own exemption permit). By constantly prioritizing wealthy campaign donors over the residents of Palo Alto, the Palo Alto City Council created a situation where we lack a tax base to support essential services like fire and police. It's not just shameful, it's infuriating.

We need to turn our attention immediately to changing direction in our community. We need to create an enforcement division, which Palo Alto continues to lack due to lack of courage in local government, and start using our own set of laws to generate revenue from businesses and organizations that have been out of compliance. We need to re-think our local tax policies, Prop 13 be damned, to require wealthy commercial developers and multi-property-owning landlords to pay their fare share into the city coffers.

We live in one of the wealthiest cities in the country, if not world, yet for too long, we have prioritized the largest land owners, corporate conglomerates, and entities that serve only the privileged few to take priority over public services that benefit all of us: wealthy and poor, children and seniors, families and students, artists and professors.

Cutting funding to police, fire, and public schools should be our LAST CASE scenario. We need to look to see which entities we have been funding by not charging them for the services they use. What are commercial developers paying us for the right to dig up our streets and build more buildings that will generate them more revenue? What is Castilleja paying us for the right to occupy 33 residential lots while they collect more than $20 million a year in tuition? What landlords paying the city for the rent they receive on their many homes they use to generate revenue they list as business profit on their tax returns? And why are there no consequences for the unknown hundreds of property owners who purchase Palo Alto homes and leave them empty when they could be occupied for their zoned purpose: for a *family*.

We are in this place due to decisions that our city government continues to make, at the expense of the community. Now more than ever we need to turn this ship around and make sure that if a house on our street is on fire, a fire engine will arrive to save the family that lives there. Anything less should be treated for what it is: a non-starter.

Posted by Pail
a resident of Downtown North
on May 10, 2020 at 1:50 am

Start fixing the pensions that were given to police and fire department, continue with the union public city employees, and suddenly you have a surplus.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 10, 2020 at 8:24 am

Rebecca, hear hear.

We have too many chiefs and not enough indians. When library services, crossing guards, recreational activities, the Interpretive Center, and similar quality of life issues are discussed as being on the chopping block, the axe is obviously too big and being wielded by a heavy hand.

Let's whittle down from the top, getting rid of those whose work is only pushing paper, signing their name and pushing it on to the next pen pusher. It will be painful for them, they may lose their jobs, but I would rather that than the firefighter who is willing to run into a burning building to save my life, or the police officer who has to clear up the wreck of a tragedy on the roads.

We don't need the former, and we need every single one of the latter.

Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on May 10, 2020 at 8:29 am


Look again.
You are adding in the utilities which are NOT in the general fund. Those other cities DO NOT RUN their own utilities.

The city council will make a fool of you if you make such an uninformed comment.

Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on May 10, 2020 at 4:05 pm

Police patrols need to be INCREASED, not decreased during these times of austerity. The homeless situation is getting worse and worse, and for the first time in my 20+ years here, a homeless man threatened to rob me when I said "no" to giving him money. He didn't have a weapon, and my gut said it was all talk. But it's not good. And I'm not talking about regulars like Tom, the other Tom, Naomi, George the drunk, Georgia, the caner woman, etc. I'm talking about a constant flow of aggressive homeless from elsewhere. How can any self-respecting mayor let a great city (or at least a downtown) fall to pieces like that?

Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on May 10, 2020 at 4:12 pm

"However, 2 blocks from the police station in Lytton Plaza, with signs all over the place saying the picnic area is closed, almost all the tables are filled."

Not once, but twice last week I saw members of the Menlo Park Fire Dept eating Pizza at one of those tables. I even overheard one say, "This is really, we should come back." If the city can't be bothered to remove the tables, people are going to use them. It's the signs on the tables we don't need.

Posted by Alvin
a resident of Professorville
on May 10, 2020 at 9:06 pm

Dear Gennady,

It is extremely misleading to state that "pandemic" - rather than lockdowns or "Shelter in Place" prohibitions - are cause of budget shortfalls. Even Spanish Flu of 1918 did not cause an economic recession. Response to this so-called pandemic, not pandemic itself, is cause of economic destruction.

In the future, I hope you will honestly refer to actual cause of budget problems.

Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 10, 2020 at 10:28 pm

Will someone please post the real costs for our top 50 City current employees to include housing subsidies, actual pension rates based on their last annual salary, and other cash-value benefits? And, how about letting us know the top 50 pensions paid now to former City employees?

"Brownouts" on fire services?!? No more traffic enforcement by City police?!? No evening library hours?!? Why not an across the board cut for all City employees and offering early retirement packages to reduce costs before cutting such basic law and safety services?

How about the City Mayor auctioning off his 24/7 "free" dedicated parking space in the City Hall basement to raise some cash and set the tone of it-hurts-all belt-tighenting for all?

If I were Mayor I'd make across the board pay checks to all current and past employees, and then say if you don't like that the City can declare bankruotcy and we'll see you all in bankruptcy court. If all the unions won't play ball with that, we'd find out fast who is actually beholden to whom in City Hall.

Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2020 at 4:03 am

Why aren't any of the fabulously wealthy people who live in Palo Alto, or world-dominating Silicon Valley tech companies that have offices or were founded in Palo Alto, offering to help the City out?

These people and companies are sitting on huge piles of wealth, some of the largest in the world, and what good is that money if they don't use it to help those who need help in this crisis, which includes the City in which they live, work, or owe their existence to?

In the 1930s, Lucie Stern, "Palo Alto's Fairy Godmother," made generous donations to Palo Alto, including the Lucie Stern Theatre and the Children's Theatre. Where are today's donors? Where are the people willing to step up and volunteer their money and resources to help preserve the services which everyone who lives in, works in, or visits Palo Alto relies on?

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 11, 2020 at 5:22 am

^ That "wealth" is all tied up somewhere. It's not stacks of hundred dollar bills sitting in a vault. May as well say CalPERS could easily cover California's deficit this year with just 10% of the fabulous wealth they have squirreled away. After all, it's our money isn't it? No need to cut services or raise taxes.

Posted by dtnorth
a resident of Downtown North
on May 11, 2020 at 11:02 am

@Rebecca, Anon- Please write everything to the city council. You have great ideas. Maybe the budget should go to a vote. Cutting the little guys so to speak to allow the robust top management, consultants to have their jobs is ridiculous. Maybe we should all rally in front of city hall. I am not quite the fan of cutting the police and fire as they have been there as essentials. Lets pull together

Posted by Dan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 11, 2020 at 11:08 am

The city just started a $17M construction project to build an unneeded bridge over 101 at Adobe Creek. That should be stopped immediately and a low-level city worker should monitor the water level in the tunnel, and keep that tunnel open most of the year. We can re-visit the bridge when the revenues come back, but right now, the city could probably save $8-$9M today by postponing construction. But you better hurry because the contractors are going to rush to get things started so they can moan about all the money they'll lose if you stop it.

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 11, 2020 at 11:08 am

Police and fire are big chunks of the budget. They have to be cut significantly in order to cut $39 million without completely gutting services. Closing the libraries completely would hardly make a difference unless the police and fire take the biggest cuts.

Posted by Schwenk
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 11, 2020 at 11:17 am


ALL ADMINISTRATION, BOARD, ETC. SHOULD HAVE THEIR SALARIES CUT BY 20% or more as many corporations across the USA have done to maintain the employment of their staff and services!



GO TO THE MEETINGS -- Social Distance 6' apart that is!

Posted by Pied Piper
a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2020 at 11:19 am

Cupertino's 2019-2020 budget per capita: $150.5M / 57,965 = $2596

Palo Alto's 2019-2020 budget per capita: $241.5M / 63,820 = $3784 (45% higher!)

That pretty much says it all.
Cutting $75M from our current budget would get us to Cupertino's per capita level.

So the real question is:

Why weren't we doing that? Already???

Posted by Marj
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2020 at 11:23 am

Please start cutting the budget from the top of the chain. Why are there 10 people in just the City Managers office? How many managers are there throughout the City that don't actually manage people but are given the title and salary. If such layoffs are given across the board than we won't need to be top heavy. Why have so many libraries? This is one of the only Cities that has 4 to 5 branches. My friend lives in a large city like Palo Alto and they only have 2 branches and folks are just fine. What about the free shuttle service? Why should the City pay for it? Make folks pay a cost recovery fee or have the PAUSD charge for busing students from one end of town to the other to the schools the students are assigned to. There are so many things like not repainting or decorating City Hall or paying for new expensive Art in the Plaza. No Chili Cook Off, May Fete Parade, Moonlight run etc. If the City doesn't have the money than don't do it. Be Fiscally responsible and say no if need be.

Posted by Schwenk
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 11, 2020 at 11:25 am


Here is a link to all the Salaries of City of Palo Alto.

Web Link

Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 11, 2020 at 11:25 am

We cannot do anything about the public employees pension so I've been told by City Council. There is no competition as there is in corporations. CUT some of the employees in the ART CENTER; they have to work to look busy. Many CITY OF PALO ALTO do not have much work to do. The City does to work efficiently and has not worked efficiently for many years.

Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on May 11, 2020 at 11:34 am

Clearly we have to reduce expenses. Where can we save the most? Where can we reduce expenses? Where can we produce new income?

Put the Public Safety Building and the Bike Bridge on hold. These are the biggest expenses in the budget and they can easily wait.

Reduce salaries for everyone on the payroll making $90K or more.

Shorten hours at the libraries and other services but don't eliminate them, except where it's really nonessential. One example -- could we cut the the Public Art staff for the time being? Absolutely non essential (and I'm an artist).

Raise the fines for traffic violations throughout the city and enforce them -- a good source of income and will help make our streets safer.

Can we put an extra tax on homes that are not occupied but are merely real estate investments by the wealthy, many of whom don't even live in the USA?

Posted by Schwenk
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 11, 2020 at 11:44 am

THE Specific Link to City of Palo Alto
Councilperson and Council Appointed Offical Salary

Council Person
City Manager
City Attorney
City Clerk

ScheduleWeb Link

Please look at their Executed Contracts too. I had know idea the City of Palo Alto paid for a very large portion of Edward Shikada's Private Home in Palo Alto.

The following Portion was copied from the Contract. Please read the entire Contract. I am in shock to think Palo Alto has been taken advantage of by Edward Shikada since September 18, 2018.

C. In the Agreement, the parties contemplated that Shikada initially would obtain
rental housing, and at a later date would obtain long term housing;

D. With respect to a purchase of housing, the parties committed to engage in good
faith negotiations regarding contributions from each party, the method of financing, and other
elements of a purchase transaction, and agreed to document those arrangements in an
amendment to the Agreement;

E. City and Shikada now desire and have mutually agreed to enter into this
Amendment One to provide for contribution amounts, methods of financing and other terms to
support purchase of a home in Palo Alto to serve as Shikada’s primary long-term residence;

I haven't read the others yet! I hope the Palo Alto Weekly does an extensive analysis and publication of the PUBLIC'S Suggestions to redirect the Council to make different decisions about where the Budget Cuts need to be approved BY THE PUBLIC.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2020 at 11:48 am

Everyone should read this before continuing:

Web Link

Some of our top politicians are being disingenuous. There is no need to lay off a single fireman, policeman, or librarian. Zero out overtime, *defer* the new bike bridge, the new public safety building, and the replacement fire station.

That doesn't mean we won't get back to those projects. Just remember to back up all the CAD plans in multiple places and don't lose track of them. Re-start when the money is there.


Posted by S_mom
a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2020 at 11:50 am

@Anon, your suggestions seem spot on. I've seen others comment that the city has an incentive to propose unpopular cuts in order to get residents to agree to higher taxes to make up the difference. I really hope that isn't the case, but your suggestions do make a lot more sense than adjusting library hours + cutting a large number of small-expenditures to save money. Thanks for taking the time to look through the budget, and I hope you can communicate these to our officials in some way.

Posted by Pied Piper
a resident of Community Center
on May 11, 2020 at 11:51 am

Mass layoffs and outsourcing (via annual competitive bids) would:
a) Make the city run more efficiently
b) Make the bureaucracy more accountable
c) Reduce defined benefit liabilities, replacing them with defined contribution

The unions will scream but we shouldn't let this crisis go to waste.

Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2020 at 11:55 am

@chris, according to Anon, General is $230M, Capital Budget is $191M.

However the city 2020 proposal for Capital Budget is $288M. I believe Anon already excluded the utility capital budget. In fact, when I glance the document, there is a separate Electric Fund 2020 capital budget of $25.7M and Gas Fund budget is $13.2M.

So I think $420M total is about right in terms of total city budget, excluding utilities. This amount is about the same as Cambidge MA, the home of Harvard and MIT, and a population twice as much as Palo Alto.

Let's be clear. The impression that Capital Budget also include utility improvement is wrong. Electric, Gas (and Water, Fiber Optics, etc.) all have separate capital budgets from separate funds.

Posted by Kerry55
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 11, 2020 at 12:09 pm

Have City Attorney declare an emergency and default on all the large pensions which are being paid out to employees that have sweetheart deals. Look at employee costs, too many chiefs, not enough cooks. Rightsize this. Also, any possible way to null and void Union guaranteed salaries, if not then privatize as much as possible. After rightsizing City staff, then possible cuts to services.

Posted by member
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 11, 2020 at 12:28 pm

Palo Alto should broker out several city services. They need to reduce the city staff, thus reducing salaries and pension cost. For decades Palo Alto has had to many "chiefs" on the payroll, reductions need to occur now.

Posted by Majority fo residents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2020 at 12:42 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg's comment about speaks for me, too.

Whose position on Council is up for grabs and what would it take for there to be a majority for Palo Altans finally? (I see the reducing of council seat numbers as a power play to keep the corporate-shill majority, but I'd like to know more.)

Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 11, 2020 at 1:04 pm

This is not the town I was so proud of, to be a middle income and middle class resident/citizen and eventual homeowner, when we moved here in 1961. I'm older now, and I'd like to think wiser, but maybe I'm not. We bragged about PA and happily showed it off to visitors, family, and friends. COVID-19 has changed all that. It's hard for me to brag about much of anything the city still offers that's different, unique, or better, than many communities or cities across the nation offer. I was born and raised in Montana.

I don't feel privileged anymore. I probably never should have, but it was hard not to: Stanford (world class university and great sports venues), a bustling business community, with a new and rapidly expanding tech industry, and an ample supply of shopper friendly mom and pop stores, and family owned stores, and an abundance of entertainment opportunities. All gone...and now many of my favorite restaurants are gone forever. If I didn't already live here, no amount of polish on this town's past image could ever get me to move here.

It goes beyond our town tho. The entire country, and now most of the other countries of the world (leaders for a long time) are being brought to their knees and suffering just like other 3rd world countries suffered for years. All the great armies of the world, ours being number one and the most well funded, are defenseless against the virus. Warplanes, ships, rockets, missiles, bombs (they're not smart enough for this enemy) are useless weapons. The virus can kill more people than all of those weapons combined. Let's spend more of our tax dollars on life saving research, not life destroying weapons.

There will never be a better time for countries to stop fighting with each other and unite their non-military resources, and resources diverted from those, to fight this common enemy.

Posted by DTNResident
a resident of Downtown North
on May 11, 2020 at 1:19 pm

As leases expire, the commercial tenants are all going to vacate so that we're not stuck in the same situation of having to pay rent while our businesses are closed. Retail has figured out how to go online. Office workers have figured out how to work from home. Restaurants aren't viable with the spacing requirements.

We aren't going back. Sales tax revenue will be PERMANENTLY lower. As rents fall, property taxes will fall.

And in the meantime, rather than taking budget cuts seriously, the city government just plays games with the budget to try to scare the citizens into taxing themselves more. Good luck with that.

Posted by Initiative Time
a resident of Barron Park
on May 11, 2020 at 1:37 pm

There is a case before the CA Supreme court which could offer cities a lifeline in the form of striking down the legal "California Rule" precedent, which states that a public employee's pension formula can never be reduced even for future work. In short, if we passed an initiative saying, "All future city work must be done on 401K style" retirement benefits instead of current pensions, the union would sue and win by citing the Califoria Rule.

If the rule is indeed struck, we need an initiative immediately to say exactly that. City workers will have to make due with the 18K or whatever the maxumum employer 401k match it, but more importantly it would allow us to stop digging this giant pension hole that is going to collapse as soon as the tax revenue stops (as it is already).

If not, we need a different initiative putting all future city workers on 401Ks, and precluding the city from offering any raises to workers who do not voluntarily switch over.

I don't have the experience to craft an airtight, enforceable initiative, but I do have the hours to help gather signatures. We need some common sense fiscal discipline now more than ever, and firing the librarians and other "have nots" in the city workforce to protect the giant pay packages of management and the other "haves" is not the way out of this.

Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on May 11, 2020 at 3:13 pm

The city could get relief by declaring bankruptcy. Other cities like Stockton have done it. It may make it more costly to borrow in the future but it may not need to if it can reduce its obligations.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2020 at 4:14 pm

Posted by member, a resident of Greenmeadow

>> Palo Alto should broker out several city services.

@Greenmeadow, and others,

While I do think public safety is very top heavy and management is overcompensated, I think the city needs to negotiate how the existing contract is being implemented. There are a lot of people whose base salaries look reasonable, but, their total compensation is embarrassingly large. It is time we got a City Manager who understands negotiation and cost control.

However, despite that, the first order of business is to defer all new construction projects. We can't afford them, and, once the budget ship is righted, construction costs should be dropping.

Also, as someone above noted, utility infrastructure spending is a separate account-- you do have to be careful to compare apples to apples. Some cities have some or all city-operated utilities, but, many/most don't.

Posted by Skeptic
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 11, 2020 at 5:17 pm

What we are seeing is a well-known ploy called "Washington Monument Gambit" where in when budgets are tight, the Federal Government cuts a popular program such as keeping the Washington Monument or national parks open, expecting that popular outcry will force the legislature to restore the funds and cut something that is less visible and has less perceptible impact.

Posted by Oldster
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 11, 2020 at 6:38 pm

Many, many thanks Schwenk for posting current top City employee salaries, and Anon and Skeptic for reminding us all of the classic politicians' panic-budgets' Washington Monument ploy.

Still crickets on any data for the top City retired (or "moved on to other things" double dipping here and there) employee pensions? Not even what their pension percentage rates of past salaries are? Nor what the current top-paid 10 City employees' future pension rates will be?

Until the voters demand change, this City will not be run for our benefit but instead for those getting City's biggest payments.

Posted by Short memory
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 11, 2020 at 8:47 pm

There have been major cuts to the fire department twice in the last decade. It’s not too heavy. It’s already functioning with less people than neighboring cities. The police department just recently got its traffic division back. This situation is bad, but Palo Alto isn’t the only one going through it. Creating a new public safety disaster to balance a budget for 1-2 years ? How about comparing the public safety budgets from neighboring cities ? It’s easier to scream about it and scape goat the people protecting you. The supposed pension crisis was addressed several years ago with reduced benefits which ware scheduled to overcome the past deficits. It’s a math equation and it’s already in place. Stating otherwise is a scare tactic.

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 12, 2020 at 12:13 am

Palo Alto has a severe financial crisis whereas Mountain View and Redwood City do not, because those cities have much more stable revenue sources. Palo Alto depends heavily on sales and transit occupancy taxes, and the bottom has fallen out on those.

The city is also having to make millions of dollars of extra payments every year to make up for the underfunding of pensions and retiree expenses previously. The piper has to be paid sooner or later. The retiree expenses are still a heaven burden.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2020 at 11:20 am

Posted by Short memory, a resident of Charleston Meadows

>> There have been major cuts to the fire department twice in the last decade. It’s not too heavy. It’s already functioning with less people than neighboring cities.

I don't think there are too many firemen, especially considering the risk profile. I do think that something is amiss when a Battalion Chief (there are many) gets $425,533.91 total compensation from a $179,897.76 base salary. $425K "top three" -based pension would be a pretty nice retirement for a fireman, don't you agree?
Web Link

Again, there aren't too many firemen. The firemen at the top are, IMHO, getting excessive compensation. Roughly 22 firemen make over $300K/year total compensation. However they do it, they get more than 2X their base salary. Overtime? Annual leave/sick leave conversion? I don't know how they do it, but, it is over the top.

BTW, I am NOT saying that I don't love firemen, and, I am NOT saying that there are too many. I am saying that we need to fix this problem.

>> The police department just recently got its traffic division back.

I heard that, but, I sure haven't seen it. I see people going 15 mph over the speed limit all the time; people turning right at stop signs, even "blind" stop signs, without stopping, all the time; people turning right at red lights without stopping; all the time. Where are the traffic enforcers?
Not in the neighborhoods, surely? I don't care that much if people speed a little on ECR, but, I do care when they drive aggressively in residential neighborhoods and blow past 7-year-olds at 40 mph.

Posted by S_mom
a resident of Community Center
on May 12, 2020 at 2:41 pm

@Anon -- thanks for the link.

I wonder whether it's fair to include the cost to the employer of "benefits" in the salary discussions? Are these primarily health insurance or is it a lot more than that? Many jobs offer benefits but people don't generally include the cost of those when talking about salaries -- usually you'd say $XXXK in salary plus benefits. Salaries are still high in Palo Alto, but $304,000 for Ed Shikada sounds a little less insane than the $417,000 number everyone is throwing around. But if the "benefits" are mostly retirement contributions then it does seem more fair to include it.

Posted by Just wondering
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 12, 2020 at 5:19 pm

Regarding fire and police salaries: Weren't the high salaries negotiated because we wanted these essential personnel to live nearby? Higher compensation was to allow them to deal with the higher costs of living in or near Palo Alto. I wonder how many do live in the immediate area? I've heard that many have long commutes to our more distant neighboring counties. I wonder if this is correct? The patrol officers and firemen have risky jobs and need to be fairly compensated. But I suspect there is excessive overtime pay and managerial salaries. The battalion chief appear to make more than the City Manager!

To S_mom. Medical insurance is expensive, but it isn't $100K. I would guess the large dollar amounts above base salary are overtime plus pension benefits.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2020 at 5:55 pm

Posted by S_mom, a resident of Community Center

>> @Anon -- thanks for the link.
>> I wonder whether it's fair to include the cost to the employer of "benefits" in the salary discussions?

I think you need to see both numbers, because the comparisons that were made were sometimes total compensation, sometimes base salary.

The salary website shows both base salary and total, but, doesn't specify what all goes in to total compensation. But, you can see from that site that many people with "ordinary" jobs get 1.2-1.5X for total compensation. That would be a normal range for benefits that I'm familiar with.

But, the listing of top salaries for the city show very high compensation for a lot of top people in public safety. As noted previously, the example "Battalion Chief" that gets $179,897.76 base salary, but, $425,533.91 total. Now, I would love to hear from the city why that compensation is so high, but, just random speculation, I'm guessing that the city is allowing certain people to work tons of overtime their last few years to get a very high "high three" for their pension computation. That may be legal, but, it adds enormously to pension costs. There are other things that may be happening with vacation or sick leave. I don't know. But, I do think the city needs to tighten up on whatever game is being played. Web Link

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2020 at 6:00 pm

It should be noted that last night's council meeting wasted time discussing and making it mandatory to wear face coverings while we are at businesses, etc. in Palo Alto. This is something the council admits it does not have the money/ability to enforce.

This is exactly the useless, feel good, virtue signalling waste of time Palo Alto is excellent at and one of the reasons there is going to be a budget problem.

Palo Alto sees a non-problem, makes lots of noise, passes a local law, doesn't enforce it, possibly hires someone to oversee, or study, or set up a committee, and nothing happens. It is not good enough. In the case of the masks, most businesses are already requiring a face covering. In the case of the masks, why bother? San Mateo county has done the same thing, Santa Clara county states that they cannot enforce it but recommend it. Businesses can require them. So why does Palo Alto have to be "better" than what the county strongly recommends and most businesses already require? Why does Palo Alto have to be able to brag their superiority to say Mountain View?

This is one of the reasons we have all the problems in Palo Alto. Our council only pays attention to being ahead of the curve, better than everyone else, making a bigger statement, have a bigger, better, more important ego to show off. We have been waiting for a bridge to replace the Adobe tunnel for over a decade. We can't build a bridge and with lack of funds we must might not get one for another decade if we believe how bad the budget is. Really??? We still will not get a bridge? Incompetence to the highest degree.

Now we the residents will suffer the lack of ability of a council who actually makes fiscally irresponsible calls and does nothing other than aim to be better than our neighboring communities. No surprise why we are called Shallow Alto. We will suffer the pecuniary poor calls as we lose amenities.

Instead of being negative, Palo Alto needs to help and introduce ways to get the local economy up and running. No more roadblocks, no more bans, no more laws that will not be enforced. Instead, give us some financially responsible leaders who can lead and balance the books by getting rid of unnecessary pen pushers who earn big bucks to do nothing.

P.S. I accidentally posted this on the wrong thread, so post it here where it was meant to go.

Posted by Sam
a resident of Green Acres
on May 13, 2020 at 2:21 am

@Anon -

Fact: Overtime is NOT included in the retirement salaries for public employees. And please remember, that while people are beating up fire and police personnel (public safety employees), all City employees (non-contractors) are considered public employees. This includes the secretaries/assistants, utility workers, water plant folks, maintenance personnel to include parks, roads, etc.

Please stop making this only about the police and fire folks.

While I have read above that Council is to blame; no one has mentioned what Jim Keene was the City Manager during the years leading up to this current dilemma. IMHO, a lot of the monetary programs and their deficits occurred under his tenure. He talked about making top management leaner, yet ended up doing quite the opposite. Y'all seem to forget that his LIFETIME PENSION is based on a computation of his salary--one of the highest in the country--which was given to him by Council!

Jus' sayin'.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 8:15 am

Posted by Sam, a resident of Green Acres

>> @Anon - >> Fact: Overtime is NOT included in the retirement salaries for public employees.

Glad to hear it. Since you know what is going on apparently, please explain how a battalion chief can make $425K in total compensation? Web Link From a base salary of $180K...

>> And please remember, that while people are beating up fire and police personnel (public safety employees),

I'm not interested in beating up fire and police personnel. As it happens, I've met a number over the years, and, they have mostly been very reasonable. I just fail to understand how so many public safety employees can be managers, and how so many top positions get over $300K in total compensation.

Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2020 at 11:22 am

The cuts the council are considering are those proposed by the city manager. Of course he isn't going to recommend budget cuts that impact his bloated top heavy staff.

Not that long ago he announced he had hired someone to a newly created position on his staff in charge of communications. Someone posted that the communications department now has a staff of four with a budget of $750K. What Greg Tanaka calls the PR staff because that is what they really are there for. This is separate from the Utilities Department staff which has it's own staff for utility communications.

Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 14, 2020 at 6:34 pm

Greg Tanaka's initial proposal of a flat cut is not fair to lower income workers, but it's a step in the right direction. Progressive cuts are in order for PAUSD and the all City workers and staff. No contracted step ups. 0% for the first $50K of earnings, 5% the next $50K, 10% the next $100K, 20% the next $100K, and then 50% above that (that's over $300K). This might add up to about the same number, but it is more fair.

If services and programs are cut, they must be cut in alignments with community safety and values.

Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on May 14, 2020 at 9:07 pm

What is the current status of the Cubberley Community Center in the budget?

Posted by Amadeo
a resident of Downtown North
on May 14, 2020 at 9:49 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by long time resident
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2020 at 1:51 pm

Some how a 17% reduction for one of the higher (Possibly) overplayed employees have the vote to say no. Such a reduction in pay will barely affect their lifestyle. 17% for someone one earn approx 80,000 - 100,000 married with kids, renter or own a home- probably a commute away will definitely be affected...

Those of you earning $200 - 400,000 are your not embarrassed and send quite a message about who leads our city and helps explain why developers get their way with relative ease in our city

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 15, 2020 at 10:19 pm

^ $400K still takes 20 years to afford a home here, considering that half goes to taxes.

Posted by Sir Topham Hatt
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 16, 2020 at 12:30 am

Mr. Musical:

Remember, paying taxes is a privilege! Giving half of your efforts back to our masters is a great honor. They can then use it wisely on $50M bridges and $500K pensions for the chosen.

Posted by S_mom
a resident of Community Center
on May 16, 2020 at 8:47 am

@musical - Apparently Ed Shikada gets $400K PLUS a $3,000,000 contribution and $1,000,000 loan towards the purchase of a $4,000,000 home (which the city gets back once he leaves, but still hugely subsidizes his housing). I could understand his $400,000 salary if he weren't also receiving an astronomical housing subsidy.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 16, 2020 at 8:22 pm

Seriously glad I'm not in Ed's shoes this season.
Hope he can lead our team like a star quarterback.
Demoralizing to hear all the booing from the stands.

Posted by Forgetful
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2020 at 6:30 pm

Don’t forget our worthless “train to nowhere” and Solyndra scam....but let’s give Gavin and the radicals more of our hard earned dollars to waste on buying votes from illegals and unions....all on the backs of taking away our safety and Prop. 13 after Nov....

Posted by Reality
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 18, 2020 at 10:42 pm

@CT resident,

I'll remind you why a new PAPD building is important. It appears okay from the outside. However, the interior is not up to par. The 911 dispatchers are in a basement, it's like a sweat shop, the offices are outdated. The city has promised them a new station for over a decade. More important than anything is our safety, especially since there will be desperate people visiting Palo Alto as if it's their candy store. The city should spend all money on our police and fire, not $11 million on a bike bridge that no one will use. EVERYONE needs the police and firemen, it's like insurance, when you need it, you need it. The police officers are well paid because they risk their lives for us every day. How many people want to be a cop? No one? I thought so. Pay them, don't cut them.

Posted by Andrea O"Leary
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 25, 2020 at 8:26 pm

Why does Palo Alto city have to OWN its own buildings? Why can't it just lease them from a normal landlord like so many other cities do? The capital tied up is massive and won't the city soon need to start using that to pay the defined benefit obligations on the under funded pension situation? If the "worst case" of down $40M is in fact not the more likely $80M downside then anything liquid feels like it should be on the table.

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