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Menlo Park council OKs $76 million budget

Delays decision on staff salaries, red-light cameras

The city of Menlo Park raided its sofa and found some pocket change, bumping up its projected 2013-14 fiscal year budget by approximately $400,000.

The extra money, found by recalculating the balance of a "debt service" fund, gave the city a $75.9 million spending plan for operations and capital projects, which the City Council approved 5-0 on June 11.

Described by City Manager Alex McIntyre as basically a "status quo" balanced budget, the plan will nevertheless enable Menlo Park to restore some basic services, including reopening the public library on holiday weekends.

The city projects $42.5 million in revenues for its general fund during the next fiscal year starting July 1 3.8 percent higher than last year thanks to increased property taxes, funding related to Facebook, and the new 12 percent hotel tax. With anticipated general fund spending of $42.3 million, a surplus of $202,000 is expected.

The council opted to leave the utility users tax at 1 percent.

Red-light cameras

While Mr. McIntyre's initial budget proposal in May suggested that the council consider adding a fifth Redflex red-light camera, to be installed at the intersection of Bayfront Expressway and Chilco Street, the council instead decided to extend the contract for the city's current cameras for 60 days past its July 2 expiration date, postponing any other actions until staff completes an analysis that will include accident rates before and after the cameras were installed, cost recovery for the program, and changes to state law.

Councilwoman Catherine Carlton asked whether the city could just shut the cameras off pending the data review. City Attorney Bill McClure said that would necessitate running through months of public noticing again should Menlo Park decide to keep its red-light camera program

Other local cities, such as Belmont, Redwood City, Hayward and San Carlos, have canceled their Redflex contracts entirely.

"I hope that when we review this, we also look at why these cities canceled," Ms. Carlton said.

Staff salaries

The budget approval process hit a snag when it came to Mr. McIntyre's request to implement new salary ranges for city staff.

The ranges, which are supposed to be updated annually, have not been adjusted since 2007. As a result the ranges don't reflect current market rates. Assistant City Manager Starla Jerome Robinson, for example, had been hired in late 2008 at approximately $187,000, although the 2007 salary cap for that position is $159,492.

However, council members thought the proposed changes were given to them too late to allow for public review and their own analysis.

"There's no way I'm voting on this tonight," Councilman Rich Cline said.

Mr. McIntyre agreed to bring the matter back to the council after taking some time to "better bake" the presentation of the request.

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