News - June 22, 2011

Portola Valley budget would impact traffic patrol

by Dave Boyce

Portola Valley residents and drivers passing through town may, in coming months, experience a new presence on the side of the road: a deputy sheriff on a motorcycle.

The town has long had two squad cars on patrol during the day, but an anticipated loss of $100,000 in state funding would undercut the town's ability to pay for the extra car being there.

The Town Council discussed the matter with Town Manager Angie Howard in a review of the proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which begins July 1. The council will revisit the budget as a topic and likely approve it at its June 22 meeting.

The decision to retain a second day-shift squad car is complicated by the involvement of Woodside. The two towns shared the $480,000 expense of fielding that deputy over the previous 12 months, and have been sharing it since 2001. If the state's $200,000 is no longer available, what should be done with the other $140,000 from each town?

A majority on Portola Valley's Finance Committee recommended trying to do without the extra deputy, but the two town managers prefer a shared motorcycle patrol. The Portola Valley council appears open to that.

"To pull the plug now without alerting the citizens about this, I think, is not a good play," Councilman Steve Toben said.

"If you drop (the shared deputy) entirely, we'll have a much better feel of how it affects us," Councilman John Richards said.

But Mayor Ted Driscoll expressed reservations, noting a recent string of "unusual crimes." Councilwoman Ann Wengert, acknowledging Mr. Driscoll's concern, mentioned the May home-invasion robberies in Menlo Park.

Balanced budget

The town expects general fund revenues and expenses of right around $3.86 million, with a slight surplus of about $3,000, according to the proposed budget.

Spending will be down about 6.4 percent from the previous fiscal year, Ms. Howard said in a budget cover letter.

One new expense, though not part of the general fund budget, is $1.5 million to upgrade one mile of hiking trail along Alpine Road from the town's border at Ladera to Arastradero Road.

The town is paying this money up front, but will be reimbursed by Stanford University, which is funding this project as part of a complex transaction involving its development plans in Santa Clara County.

Tax revenues are on an upswing, the budget shows. The anticipated $1,880,000 in property tax revenues is an increase of 4 percent from the previous year and 22 percent above 2007-08 revenues, when the current recession began in earnest.

Projected sales tax revenues of $146,000 would represent an increase of 9 percent over the previous year.

Law enforcement expenses of $598,145 represent a 9 percent jump in this last year of a three-year contract with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office. These contracts tend to rise with each passing year, and spending for 2011-12 is up 43 percent from 2007-08.

The town will spend $21,000 on an analysis of fees for building permits and related staff work and whether the fees reflect the cost of the work. The last such study was done in 1999, Ms. Howard wrote.

The town's road resurfacing budget will be $500,000, including $82,500 from a county vehicle registration fee of $10, passed by voters in November 2010.

The Historic Schoolhouse is scheduled for repainting at a cost of $15,500.


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