News

Menlo Park council sends budget back for redo

The Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday night sent a proposed deficit budget back to the city manager with a request that he make changes so the budget will be in balance with anticipated general fund revenues for the fiscal year starting July 1.

The council plans to meet again soon on the budget with the goal of having the budget adopted by June 30.

"I'm loath to pass an unbalanced budget," said councilwoman and mayor Catherine Carlton.

Councilman Ray Mueller said it was good policy that during an economic upturn, the city balance the budget and keep reserves for a "rainy day."

The budget that had been presented to the council would have the city spending more than it takes in for the next three years. The city's staff proposed a $78.1 million budget for fiscal year 2015-16 that would spend $49.3 million from the general fund, but with estimated revenue of $48.1 million. The imbalance would be mainly due to increased labor costs, as approximately 11 full-time employees would be hired to help process incoming projects.

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Councilwoman Kirsten Keith said she would not approve the proposed budget. "I think we need to get together and decide what is important and what is not important," she said with regard to a list of projects the council had said it wanted to implement.

Councilman Peter Ohtaki asked City Manager Alex McIntyre how the plan to hire temporary contracted employees, instead of full-time hires, has worked out. Mr. McIntyre said the city is struggling to hire engineers to deal with major development projects, and there is high turnover. A temporary employee will leave when offered a full-time job. There is great competition for skilled staff by cities from Mountain View to Redwood City due to the boom in development projects, he said.

Mr. McIntyre did have some good news to report. The city will receive about half a million dollars from the state in the current fiscal year. This is payment for city-funded programs that were required, but not paid for, by the state.

Mr. Mueller cautioned the city manager about spending one-time funds for ongoing costs, such as those to employ new full-time employees. "It's always tempting to use one-time money, but it's bad economic policy," he said.

Councilman Rich Cline, who asked for more data on the budget, said: "Maybe we need another meeting to give the council some more confidence in these decisions."

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Menlo Park council sends budget back for redo

Uploaded: Wed, Jun 17, 2015, 11:58 am

The Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday night sent a proposed deficit budget back to the city manager with a request that he make changes so the budget will be in balance with anticipated general fund revenues for the fiscal year starting July 1.

The council plans to meet again soon on the budget with the goal of having the budget adopted by June 30.

"I'm loath to pass an unbalanced budget," said councilwoman and mayor Catherine Carlton.

Councilman Ray Mueller said it was good policy that during an economic upturn, the city balance the budget and keep reserves for a "rainy day."

The budget that had been presented to the council would have the city spending more than it takes in for the next three years. The city's staff proposed a $78.1 million budget for fiscal year 2015-16 that would spend $49.3 million from the general fund, but with estimated revenue of $48.1 million. The imbalance would be mainly due to increased labor costs, as approximately 11 full-time employees would be hired to help process incoming projects.

Councilwoman Kirsten Keith said she would not approve the proposed budget. "I think we need to get together and decide what is important and what is not important," she said with regard to a list of projects the council had said it wanted to implement.

Councilman Peter Ohtaki asked City Manager Alex McIntyre how the plan to hire temporary contracted employees, instead of full-time hires, has worked out. Mr. McIntyre said the city is struggling to hire engineers to deal with major development projects, and there is high turnover. A temporary employee will leave when offered a full-time job. There is great competition for skilled staff by cities from Mountain View to Redwood City due to the boom in development projects, he said.

Mr. McIntyre did have some good news to report. The city will receive about half a million dollars from the state in the current fiscal year. This is payment for city-funded programs that were required, but not paid for, by the state.

Mr. Mueller cautioned the city manager about spending one-time funds for ongoing costs, such as those to employ new full-time employees. "It's always tempting to use one-time money, but it's bad economic policy," he said.

Councilman Rich Cline, who asked for more data on the budget, said: "Maybe we need another meeting to give the council some more confidence in these decisions."

Comments

Marjorie McCracken
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 17, 2015 at 12:38 pm
Marjorie McCracken, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 17, 2015 at 12:38 pm
6 people like this

Thank you, city council. Let's not spend money we don't have!


Downtowner
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 17, 2015 at 12:44 pm
Downtowner, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 17, 2015 at 12:44 pm
3 people like this

McIntyre has fully proven that he knows how to spend big money on questionable items. He got his renewal & his raise, much to my disappointment, but please, Council, keep his "wants" in tight check.

We can't afford this dude if he behaves as he has before. Council evidently has great faith in the power to change for the better. I have faith In MP's ability to vote wisely @ the next election.


Good work!
Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 17, 2015 at 3:04 pm
Good work!, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 17, 2015 at 3:04 pm
6 people like this

Way to lead, Councilman Mueller!


Class Act
Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2015 at 3:48 pm
Class Act, Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2015 at 3:48 pm
2 people like this

I'm so pleased this group is able to work together in such a collaborative and respectful way. It was discraseful, in years past, when council members were interrupting and cutting each other off while tossing out insults.


FoodTrucks
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 17, 2015 at 5:25 pm
FoodTrucks, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 17, 2015 at 5:25 pm
2 people like this

The city somehow needs to ramp up staff to deal with development projects involving the Specific Plan and M2. Two big projects, Greenheart and Stanford, plus more Facebook expansion, plus a potential hotel on El Camino, plus a Caltrain over/underpass, all loom on the horizon, not to mention ECR bike/pedestrian planning, the latter long overdue. If you don't want this stuff, then fine, don't hire staff to make it happen and don't hold your breath waiting.
The staff is also overworked, being spread thin dealing with too much going on and being diverted from core needs. My understanding of the budget was that since MP has run a surplus recently we can use that over the next few years to support needed new staff. That's a good use of that savings. Surely some prudent approach to making the needed investment in staff is possible. Also, contracting has been a huge failure. Numerous people were hired and trained and then took off to our neighboring cities when a permanent offer came through. Penny wise, pound foolish.


Balance
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 17, 2015 at 5:41 pm
Balance, Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 17, 2015 at 5:41 pm
8 people like this

Kudos to the Council for telling the City Manager to balance the budget. One or two full time positions to oversee some temps would be way more fiscally sound then what the City Manager has proposed. We're not going to need the huge number of full time positions once the developments are complete, but the city will be stuck with them. The City Manager doesn't seem to care about wasting money or misleading the Council, so glad Ray spoke up and will hopefully put an end to it


more please
Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2015 at 11:53 pm
more please, Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2015 at 11:53 pm
Like this comment

@Balance, wrote, "the City Manager doesn't seem to care about wasting money or misleading the council". Actually, Mueller accused a fellow council member of wasting money and misleading the council. It's hard to say for sure because Mueller was talking that council member who had the floor while the mayor was attempting to regain order.

More that anything, we hope Mueller will give us more: more interrupting; more accusations; more telling us that others are "cool" with his antics.


Rocky
Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 1:38 am
Rocky, Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 1:38 am
8 people like this

Three cheers to Stu Soffer, Lee Duboc and Ray Mueller! Keep up the pressure for fiscal sanity.


Fact Checker
Menlo Park: other
on Jun 18, 2015 at 7:13 am
Fact Checker, Menlo Park: other
on Jun 18, 2015 at 7:13 am
5 people like this

Mueller never accused a fellow Councilmember of misleading the Council or wasting money. He did interrupt Councilmember Ohtaki once while Councilmember Ohtaki was speaking, but Mueller apologized later and both he and Councilmember Ohtaki laughed about it openly during the meeting and agreed things were fine between them.




frustrated
Menlo Park: other
on Jun 18, 2015 at 8:31 am
frustrated, Menlo Park: other
on Jun 18, 2015 at 8:31 am
Like this comment

Nothing about all this laughing, but today's Post reported, "Councilmember Peter Ohtaki on the other hand, seemed visibly frustrated..."


Grasping at Straws
Menlo Park: other
on Jun 18, 2015 at 9:04 am
Grasping at Straws, Menlo Park: other
on Jun 18, 2015 at 9:04 am
3 people like this

The Post article doesn't mention the brief interchange between Ohtaki and Mueller at all.

The full cite is, "Councilman Peter Ohtaki on the other hand appeared visibly frustrated with the fact a balanced budget might not allow the city pace of getting projects completed."

Class Act is right. This Council does work well together - even when they disagree. There are always going to be candid moments when Councilmembers disagree on issues. But this Council has done a great job of keeping cool heads and continuing to work together collaboratively, as evidenced by the result of the meeting reported in the article.

Obviously someone is trying to attack Mueller's character because they disagree with his stance on pursuing a balanced budget, even if that means distorting facts and newspaper articles. That's sad.




Grasping at Straws
Menlo Park: other
on Jun 18, 2015 at 9:07 am
Grasping at Straws, Menlo Park: other
on Jun 18, 2015 at 9:07 am
Like this comment

The full cite is: "The full cite is, "Councilman Peter Ohtaki on the other hand appeared visibly frustrated with the fact a balanced budget might not allow the city to speed up the pace of getting projects completed."




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