Town Square

Post a New Topic

Menlo Park budget gap grows to $1 million

Original post made on Jul 5, 2023

The Menlo Park City Council approved a $76.1 million budget] with a $1 million deficit for the coming fiscal year.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 5, 2023, 4:01 PM

Comments (15)

Posted by Mark Potter
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 5, 2023 at 5:30 pm

Mark Potter is a registered user.

I would be interested to see annual city expenses over the past 50 years adjusted for inflation. It is very difficult to put this into context without this data.

Posted by James Pistorino
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 5, 2023 at 9:19 pm

James Pistorino is a registered user.

Since 2013, City FTE count has grown by 28%, while population has stayed flat. Do you think you need 28% more ocal government than 10 years ago?

Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 6, 2023 at 3:43 pm

MP Resident is a registered user.

@James Pistorino

Interesting. Do you know what new FTEs are doing?

Posted by No Easy Solutions
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 7, 2023 at 2:53 pm

No Easy Solutions is a registered user.

Not sure about formatting, but posting it below.

admin services|25|34|35.2
city council|5|5|5
public safety|75.75|76.50|62.50
public works|56.00|69.50|72.60
community srv|51.50|52.25|45.85
community dev|18.00|31.00|32.10
total ftee|245.75|286.75|271.75

census link
Web Link
MP 2022 annual financial report, pg 191
Web Link
MP 2017 annual financial report, pg 186
Web Link
roles of MP departments
Web Link

Posted by James Pistorino
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 7, 2023 at 6:08 pm

James Pistorino is a registered user.

The most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report includes a table on page 191 showing in 2013 FTEs were 229.75. In 2022, FTEs were 271.75. The budget approved at the June 27 City Council meeting has 290.5 FTEs but excluded 6 FTEs that will be added later. If you go with the 290.5 number, staff has increased ~26%. If you go with 296.5, staff has increased 29%. Either way, 60+ additional employees while population has stayed flat is remarkable.

Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 7, 2023 at 6:33 pm

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

It would be helpful to have detailed org charts that included ongoing use of contractors to supply services. A number of residents, including some Council members, have asked for these org charts. These do not have to list the names, beyond the senior level managers. I consider the org charts essential for fact-based decision making.

The survey idea is a good one but it should be positioned more positively. The residents should be surveyed as to what services we don't use, value or want and the data used to make changes.

Other ideas: The City could also increase its use of volunteers and go after more grants. An outside auditor function, that worked off a yearly Council-approved work plan, could also identify ways to reduce possible waste and inefficiency, or to bring in more revenue. For example, suitable scrutiny of the City's public-private partnerships might determine they aren't delivering enough value to the taxpayer.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 9, 2023 at 7:50 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

It would be nice if the city simply provided reasons why staff has increased by 29% while the population has not grown. So far, I have seen no explanations as to the need for that much additional staff. Here's a novel thought, if the population hasn't grown and staff has grown by 29%, and we're looking at a major budget shortfall, CUT STAFFING LEVELS. The city was operating just fine before the staffing increases. I would imagine if staffing was cut, we could balance the budget, the city would still continue to operate as it has before, AND there would be no need for additional taxes.

I would love to hear from council as to the reasons all of this additional staff has been added when the population hasn't grown. A survey would be of little value when we voters don't know why we have the staff levels we do.

Posted by No Easy Solutions
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 9, 2023 at 1:43 pm

No Easy Solutions is a registered user.

Looking at number of FTE is misleading because Menlo Park's revenue base has increased from $54M in 2013 to $96M in 2022, an increase of about 78%. Even though population has remained flat, the percentage growth in revenue base is higher than FTE growth. MP has ran a surplus every year since 2013, except for 2021 (pandemic).

Not disagreeing that cutting staff may be needed to balance the budget, MP did that during the pandemic. However, how much did ending the utility tax impacted the 2023 budget or is making it worse due to projected shortfall in overall revenue?

Posted by James Pistorino
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 9, 2023 at 2:29 pm

James Pistorino is a registered user.

Using your numbers, $54M in 2013 would equate to $70.33M in today's dollars factoring in inflation. Subtracting that from your $96M figure gives an increase in spending of ~36%, which is not far off the increase in staff size. Additional expenditures are millions being spent by MP on "climate emergency."

Posted by Iris
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 14, 2023 at 7:42 am

Iris is a registered user.

A thorough analysis might reveal if some of the differences are due to timing and external factors. For example, the efforts to address the state's housing mandates and the large amount of development in Menlo Park could account for a good part of the difference between staffing and population. Huge projects such as Middle Plaza, Springline, Willow Village are not fully occupied at the same time their planning, approvals and construction that consume a lot of staff time (that SHOULD be fully paid by the developers).

The Council has approved massive commercial growth that hasn't been accompanied by massive new revenue. How about a focus on that?

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 14, 2023 at 7:50 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


The building and planning departments are supposedly self funding. Fees paid for plan check, planning review, inspections etc. are supposed to be set to cover the costs of the building and planning department. The increase in construction would explain the added staff, but not the budget shortfall. Unless, council is diverting some of those funds.

Posted by James Pistorino
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 14, 2023 at 3:08 pm

James Pistorino is a registered user.

Do you have any data to substantiate the idea that there has been increased construction activity in the last year/two as compared to 2013? If building and planning are self-funded and all the increase in staffing is in that department, that just means the rest of Menlo Park is even more poorly managed and, in real terms, spending has increased by 36% in 10 years.

Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 15, 2023 at 8:16 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.


I don't have the data, but from my personal experience in construction, there is definitely more construction now than in 2013. Covid saw a large increase in construction, primarily in the remodeling sector. In my experience, construction has not slowed down since Covid.

Again, building and planning are supposed to be self funding, so if they have been managed that way, budget shortfall should not be occurring in those departments. It would be good to know how much of the staffing increases have been in planning and building. That would give a more accurate idea of how bad the problem really is.

Posted by Iris
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 18, 2023 at 7:52 am

Iris is a registered user.

Even if all the planning and building staff are paid through fees, which I question even though that is possible and SHOULD happen, the number of staff would be higher than in the past. Thus the comparisons of flat population and increased staff should take the building activity into account. Some posts do not reflect that reality.

I believe that a big part of the budget problem is that the city's bread basket of sales tax-paying businesses has diminished, replaced by internet companies that do not provide such revenue. Time to create a comprehensive revenue plan.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 18, 2023 at 9:34 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Time to create a comprehensive revenue plan."

And a comprehensive expenditure plan!

this is a great opportunity to do a Zero Base Budget.
"Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) is a method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified for each new period. The process of zero-based budgeting starts from a "zero base," and every function within an organization is analyzed for its needs and costs. The budgets are then built around what is needed for the upcoming period, regardless of whether each budget is higher or lower than the previous one."
Web Link

With Zero Base Budgeting every function must justify its purpose and the associated costs.

I suspect that such a process would quickly identify some very expensive function that could easily be eliminated.

An example is that Menlo Park has its own police dispatch - a very expensive function and one that could be easily replaced by a consolidated dispatch serving multiple departments. Years ago Menlo Fire started such a consolidated dispatch with a consolidated service serving the fire agencies in southern San Mateo County. That was so successful that now ALL San Mateo fire agencies now use a SINGLE county wide dispatch system. The result is better fire response at a lower cost! A rare event in government.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Almanac Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

My Holiday Wish List for Menlo Park
By Dana Hendrickson | 1 comment | 3,016 views

Burning just one "old style" light bulb can cost $150 or more per year
By Sherry Listgarten | 12 comments | 2,967 views

Banning the public from PA City Hall
By Diana Diamond | 26 comments | 2,118 views

Pacifica’s first brewery closes its doors
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 1,821 views

Premiere! “I Do I Don’t: How to build a better marriage” – Here, a page/weekday
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,387 views


Support local families in need

Your contribution to the Holiday Fund will go directly to nonprofits supporting local families and children in need. Last year, Almanac readers and foundations contributed over $300,000.