Menlo Park approves new fees, labor contract
It was a quiet night, and a short night, for the Menlo Park City Council on March 27. Without much public comment and nary a debate, the council voted unanimously on the agendized issues and adjourned by 8 p.m.
A proposed contract with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) got a full panel of five green lights, as did changes to the city's fee structure for community services.
The 140 city employees affected by the contract will see the following changes: The retirement age for new non-police city employees was raised from 55 to 60, and pension benefits decreased from a maximum of four-fifths of annual salary to three-fifths; no raises; no awards for not using sick leave; and fixed contributions rather than automatic increases to health plans, according to staff .
The city can also implement up to 21 hours in unpaid furlough each fiscal year and continue to release salary and benefit information as public records.
Menlo Park giveth as well as taketh away —SEIU employees will each receive $100 to $200 more per month for health and dental coverage. The contract runs through Oct. 31, 2013, and will cost the city $336,600 more than the previous agreement.
The community services fee discussion brought one of the few public comments at the meeting. Michael Brandt, a parent with two children set to attend the Menlo Children's Center, said his family was looking at $3,200 a month in daycare bills if the fees increased 3 to 8 percent as planned. He asked what level of cost recovery was necessary for a service that provided child care to working families.
During the brief ensuing discussion by council and staff, Councilman Rich Cline noted that the city has considered outsourcing childcare, since it's one of the most heavily subsidized services, so it needed to get as close to full cost recovery as possible. Mayor Kirsten Keith suggested conducting a market study to compare the cost of city daycare with other local providers, a notion supported by colleagues Peter Ohtaki and Kelly Fergusson, and approved by the council 5-0 as part of the vote on fee changes.
Staff clarified one unclear section of the report on fee changes — the costs of reviewing construction projects smaller than 250 square feet would go down, not up. The new fee structure would take into account that less staff time is spent on reviewing smaller projects.