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Atherton: Budget shows surplus, healthy reserves

Atherton residents are certain to be happy that their City Council was able to sign off on a new budget for fiscal year 2014-15 that showed revenues surpassing spending and healthy reserves. But they may also be appreciative of the planned upgrades for the public meeting hall used for council meetings -- including plans to fix the holes in the restroom walls and replace the hall's tired carpet.

The council unanimously passed the balanced operating budget at its June 18 meeting, praising the finance director and the city manager for crafting, in the words of the longest-serving council members, the best and most readable document ever presented during their tenure on the council.

With $11.6 million in projected revenue and some $11.46 million in spending, there is a single-year operational budget surplus of $155,850. That doesn't include the $1.86 million in parcel tax revenue or money that will almost certainly be paid to the town from a special state fund late in the fiscal year. That revenue, from the state fund known as ERAF, is conservatively estimated at $700,000.

City Manager George Rodericks said in his report to the council that ERAF funds for the 2013-14 fiscal year, which ended June 30, have come in at just over $1 million, and at the July council meeting he will recommend that the money be spent to pay down the town's unfunded Other Post-Employment Benefit (OPEB) liabilities.

In addition to new spending on long-deferred restroom renovations and cosmetic improvements to the City Council Chambers, the new budget includes funds for technology improvements in the hall. The projects amount to a $29,700 spending increase in the budget's "City Council" column.

The largest spending increase ($351,200) is in the police department, and reflects the addition of two police officers. At the same time, less money is budgeted for such things as overtime costs, temporary help, vehicle maintenance and recruitment costs.

The budget for public works reflects a $123,600 increase "and is largely due to the continuation of approved enhanced services for a full year, inclusion of contract park event services for a full year, and increases in professional engineering services in anticipation of increased capital project needs," according to the staff report.

The budget also includes an emergency reserve of about $1.7 million, an operating reserve of about $2.3 million, and a building reserve of about $465,300.

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