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George Rodericks

City Manager's Blog

The City Manager's Blog is an online educational tool to provide general information to the community in open communication style. Periodically, the City Manager will post articles of general interest covering topics such as the Town's budget, budget process, capital projects, upcoming meetings, community issues, public safety, and general Town operations.

Articles in the blog are not designed as press releases or Town publications, rather, they are written in more of a conversational style. The Blog does not have a comments feature but readers are free to respond to the Blog and its entries view email directly to the City Manager.

Nov 15

October 2017 City Manager's Monthly Report

Posted on November 15, 2017 at 2:04 PM by George Rodericks

City Manager's Monthly Report - October 2017

Monthly-report.pngThe City Manager's Monthly Report Blog is a consolidation of issues, communications, and Town activity during the prior month that have been reported to the City Council as part of their weekly email from the City Manager. It is retrospective. Sometimes information is duplicated over the course of several emails to the City Council to ensure that it is reviewed

As I review the information to include in the Monthly Report, to the extent possible, I remove duplicate updates (older emails get shorter - sometimes a lot shorter) in favor of the most recent - although some will be duplicative if there is other relevant information included. 

The Report reads with the most recent first. As always, if you have any questions or comments regarding the Monthly Report, please feel free to contact me directly via email or phone.

My weekly email to the City Council typically goes out every Friday. There are no reports during the month of August. 

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George Rodericks
City Manager
Town of Atherton
(650) 752-0504

October 20, 2017 Weekly Council Notes

1. Council of Cities Dinner - October 27 (this has already occurred)

The Council of Cities Dinner is scheduled for Friday, October 27 (reminder that I will be out of town at the ICMA Conference). The speaker is Assistant County Manager Mike Callagy. Topics will include building projects around the County, the County Budget, Aircraft Noise Update, and general Q&A. 

The Council of Cities Meeting is considered a public meeting (high likelihood of majority of Council present to engage and participate in a discussion of issues that have local affect). Jim Lewis has requested to attend. 
2. Police Department Community Meeting - November 8 (this has already occurred)

The Police Department is hosting a community meeting on Wednesday, November 8 from 7 pm to 8:30 pm in the Pavilion to discuss various crime prevention topics. 

3. Atherton Fiber Lease Agreement

The draft lease has been completed and is being reviewed by AthertonFiber. 

4. Fire Services Fiscal Review

All Tasks for the Fire Fiscal Services Review have been received by the Town and drafts are now being reviewed by the Subcommittee. The documents are internal working drafts until they are presented to the Council for review. I anticipate that we will be reviewing the draft and working with the Consultant until December (a couple of weeks for review, a couple of weeks to arrange a meeting with the consultant, a couple of weeks for any follow-up work). 

Follow-up with the full Council will likely be in January. 

5. Shred and E-Waste Event - 2018

The Town has reserved April 28, 2018 for its Annual Shred and E-Waste event. 

6. Active Shooter Exercise

The Town will be hosting an Active Shooter Exercise on Monday, April 9, 2018 at Menlo School. 

7. Articles of Note

8. Animal Services Monthly Report - September 2017

9. Comparative Facts - 2007/08 to 2016/17

FY 2007/08 - 

CIP Funding
- The Town’s CIP was largely funded by $1,506,335 from the Parcel Tax (remainder to PD) and $1,000,000 from the Road Impact Fee. 
- Other regular funding sources for the CIP were Measure A at $229,500, Gas Tax at $145,000 - TOTAL $374,500
- Total Regular Funding for CIP = $2,879,335

Annual Basic CIP Project Costs
- Basic Street Patching/Slurry/Overlays/Maintenance - $205,000
- Drainage Projects - $725,000

- The Town had 54.5 employees - 28.5 employees were in the PD, with 15 of that being Police Officers and 5 Sergeants. 
- The Town’s Operating Budget was $9.8 million - $4.9 million was Police (roughly 50% of the operating budget).
- The Town’s General Fund Revenue was $8.96 million. $3.9 million was from some secured property taxes (roughly 44%)

FY 2016/17 - 

CIP Funding
- The Town’s CIP was largely funded by $1,488,000 from the Parcel Tax (remainder to PD) - NO ROAD IMPACT FEE
- Other regular funding sources for the CIP were Measure A at $340,000, Gas Tax at $205,000, and Measure M at $75,000 - TOTAL $620,000
- Total Regular Funding for CIP = $2,108,000

Annual Basic CIP Project Costs
- Street Patching/Slurry/Overlays/Maintenance - $1,000,000
- Drainage Projects - $1,150,000

- The Town had 39 employees - 29 employees are in the PD, with 14 of that being Police Officers and 5 Sergeants.
- The Town’s Operating Budget was $12.4 million - $6.8 million was Police (roughly 55% of the operating budget).
- The Town’s General Fund Revenue was $13.9 million. $7.5 million is from some secured property taxes (roughly 54%)


- In the 10 years, the Town’s secured property taxes increased by $3.6 million. Nearly double. However, as a percentage of total revenue received by the Town, it only increased by 10% (i.e. other revenues did not). 
Vehicle License Fee Revenue used to be a separate subvention by the State, it is now included in Property Taxes as part of a State Budget realignment. This inflates the total property tax revenue ($9.6m) by $1m.
Building Permit revenue was $600,000 higher in 2007/08 than today. 
Business license revenue was $250,000 higher in FY 2007/08 than today (something I’m looking into). 
Construction and Road Maintenance Costs have increased over the years, not only in the amount of projects done, but in the cost to do the SAME project. 
Interest income was $250,000 higher in FY 2007/08 than today (that we all feel). 
- Across the board, department costs have generally increased. By department:
- City Council went from $24k to $80k
- Admin went from $565k to $819k
- Legal went from $198k to $204k
- Finance went from $446k to $664k
- Building/Planning are roughly the same at $1.5m
- PD went from $4.9m to $6.8m
- Public Works went down - from $2.2m to $1.8m 
- Interdepartmental went from $523 to $500k
Pension Costs are lower - In FY 2007/08, the Town’s annual obligation to pensions was $1,327,737. In FY 2016/17, our pension obligation was $1,211,740. 
Health Care Costs are higher. This is largely due to the Town’s new OPEB Requirements for funding - this did not exist in FY 2007/08. In FY 2007/08, the operational cost for health insurance was $468,538. In FY 2016/17, that operational cost is $663,444. However, the Town also makes a contribution to the now closed pool of OPEB liability. That Annual Required Contribution (ARC) payment in 2016/17 was $417,106. Health costs are higher than FY 2007/08 by $612,012 largely due to the ARC liability for OPEB. 

10. Bayfront Canal Reimbursement Agreement

The County is putting together a reimbursement agreement for the Town for the project. The terms are a 10-year fixed reimbursement period at 1.2% interest and no pre-payment penalty. The County will collect payment via a reduction in our property tax allocation two times a year. The County will remit the $165,000 to the Town for us to draw against upon submittal of the first invoice for payment. 

11. Survey Markers - 73 Ashfield Road

12. Selby/ECR Intersection Improvement Project

Linked here is an anonymous letter that was sent to residents on Stockbridge regarding the Town’s discussions for intersection improvements at Selby Lane and El Camino Real. 

I received and responded to several angry emails from residents. I spoke with several residents on the phone as well about the issue. Once I explained the actual project being discussed and its current state, they understood. 

Below is the text of an email I sent to one of the residents. 

"Thanks the reply. Unfortunately, the information is not exactly correct. There is a meeting tomorrow night at Selby Lane School, 6 pm to 7:30 pm. The meeting is the next step on a collaborative project with the County, Caltrans, the Town, Redwood City and the community to help improve the El Camino Real/Selby Lane intersection. The first community meeting was held in February 2016. Caltrans came to the Town 3-4 years ago and advised that they want to install a traffic signal at Selby and El Camino Real because it met accident warrants. The Town felt that the surrounding community needed to have input into that decision and felt that a signal may have a negative impact on traffic flow by diverting traffic down neighborhood streets. The Council did not want that so they told Caltrans that it needed to work with the Town to come up with alternative solutions. 

The Town hired a consultant to develop and perform some preliminary analysis of some alternatives for the intersection using more recent traffic data. The goal being to improve safety at the intersection for Safe Routes to School and regular pedestrian/vehicle traffic. Potential alternatives (web link to images) ranged from limiting left turns into the County Selby Lane from south bound ECR, controlled left/right turns into E/W Selby, to a full traffic signal, to a hybrid pedestrian signal only. 

A traffic analysis was completed on the potential alternatives (web link to Report) in May 2017. The analysis examined the impact of current conditions and signal timings, an alternative that restricted left turns from SB ECR onto Selby (county area), and a full signal at the intersection. The other alternatives are lesser options from a traffic analysis scenario. Impact on adjacent intersections was included in the study (to include Stockbridge). Summary of the impacts of the alternatives begins on page 24. 

At this point, no decisions have been made, only preliminary conversations with the stakeholder agencies and the community. Any proposed intersection improvement has a long path ahead as it would need to be approved by not only the Atherton City Council, but the County of San Mateo, the City of Redwood City, AND Caltrans. As you know, Caltrans is the ultimate landowner here as they are responsible for El Camino Real. 

The Town is very much aware of the concerns of cut through traffic and in fact, at Wednesday night’s Council Meeting the Council is set to review/approve another study to provide alternatives for the Town to manage the flow of traffic throughout its streets. As a community, we are burdened by the impact (without a say) of adjacent community improvements (Menlo Park, Redwood City, County). Our streets have become thoroughfares when many of them should be residential and collector streets. The Town is exploring was to mitigate the impact of that regional traffic. 

Potential improvements at the Selby Lane/El Camino Real intersection are being reviewed by the Town very carefully.
13. Public Works Director/City Engineer Recruitment

The Recruitment is open and on the street. We anticipate a healthy response, although these positions are difficult recruiting prospects. We will be bringing the formal position creation with salary schedule to the Council on November 15. This will also be the time we revise the title/salary schedule for the Town Arborist and Associate Engineer with effective dates of January 1. 

14. Annual Fire District and City Council Joint Meeting

As the Council is aware, the Annual Joint Meeting is tentatively scheduled for December 12. The Chief and I will coordinate with the Board President and Mayor to craft an agenda for the meeting. The Fire Fiscal Services Review will not be completed in time to be on the Agenda.  

15. ADAPT/Emergency Preparedness DeBrief

ADAPT and CERT will be making a presentation at an upcoming City Council Meeting on the outcome of the most recent community emergency preparedness event. 

October 13, 2017 Weekly Council Notes

1. Neighborly - Potential Presentation to Council

Staff met with Neighborly to discuss cash flow funding opportunities for the Civic Center Project. Neighborly hosts a crowd funding website for public projects and facilitates the issuance of public bonds directed at local investment. Staff was exploring the possibility that Neighborly would provide a vehicle to engage the community to “invest” in the Civic Center Project as part of any cash flow funding options considered by the Council (like COPs). However, at this time, Neighborly only facilitates the issuance of public bond options. That is something that the Council is not currently considering for the project. Neighborly is investigating with their bond counsel the option of doing the same for COPs. 

If so, we will invite Neighborly back to the Council for a presentation on the options. Linked here is a Neighborly pamphlet that walks through their service and mission. 
2. ICMA City Manager’s Conference

I will be attending the ICMA City Manager’s Conference in San Antonio from October 21 through October 29. This means that I may or may not be present for the October 21 Halloween event and I will not be present for the October 27 Council of Cities dinner.

3. OpenGov Updates and Enhancements

Staff is meeting with OpenGov next week to finalize updates and work on new enhancements for next year’s budget process using OpenGov. The website will also be updated with new and more detailed budget data. 

4. Peninsula Mobility Group Presentation

At the October 12 San Mateo Manager’s Association Meeting we heard a presentation from Peninsula Mobility Group (PMG). PMG is a coalition of private employers, public agency employers, Bay Area businesses associations and community leaders focused on improving mobility on the Peninsula Corridor. PMG advocates for regional, state and federal funding. 

5. Park Events and Revenue Logs

Linked here are the September Park Events Log and the Revenue Log. 

6. Annual All Schools Meeting

On October 12, the Police Department hosted their Annual All Schools Meeting at the Pavilion in the Park. All schools, except MAHS were represented. MAHS had a required meeting that conflicted. MAHS setup a one-on-one meeting to hear the presentation. The group was engaged with lots of Q&A. 

Linked here is a copy of the PowerPoint presentation provided by SRO Officer Gomez. This is the link to the Run-Hide-Fight video

7. Northern California Fires Mutual Aid

As you know, we have already sent a couple officers North in response to mutual aid requests (12-hour shifts only). The next shifts are - October 13, 4 pm - Officer Rojas, October 14, 4 am - Reserve Officer Tam, and October 14, 4 pm - Officer Macdonald. These are mutual aid requests via the State Office of Emergency Services. 

8. Bayfront Canal MOU

All participating agencies (except Woodside) have approved the Bayfront Canal MOU. Atherton’s terms and conditions were incorporated into the MOU. A final version of the MOU is being reviewed by legal counsels and will be distributed for signatures. 

The Bayfront Canal Collaborative (BCC) will have regular monthly project meetings. Staff will be participating The two engaged consultants, BKF and Paradigm, have both been given Notices to Proceed. 

9. Atherton Water Capture Project Design Statements of Qualifications

Interviews have been set with three firms for next week - Geosyntec Consultants, Tetra Tech, and Brown and Caldwell. 

10. Heritage Tree Ordinance Discussions - Planning Commission

The Planning Commission has been working on revisions to the Town’s Heritage Tree Ordinance. Final recommendations are underway and this will be making its way to the Council in the coming months. 

There is a Tree Preservation Guidelines, Standards and Specifications document that was approved and adopted by the  Town in 2004. This is the starting point for discussion and modification. As the Commission Subcommittee got into the details, it was quickly realized that over the years, this document has not been fully implemented and residents may not be experiencing the full requirements of the document. 

The Subcommittee is recommending revisions to the document to make it even more restrictive. This approach will need to be carefully considered by the Council. As mentioned, the document has not really been applied in full to projects over the years and making it even more restrictive may come as a shock to many. 

Key areas for discussion by the Subcommittee are the following:

- A property owner’s Tree Protection Plan must be prepared by a certified arborist (already in specs)
- A Pre-Construction Meeting is required (already in specs) 
- A Tree Protection Zone must be a minimum of 8 times - 10 times the diameter (partially in specs - recommended for expansion)
- Inspection Reports and monthly reports must be submitted to the Town Arborist (already in specs)
- Add Redwoods to the Building Area restrictions (new)
- Lower heritage tree size for native oaks to 6 inches (new)
- Add multi-trunk trees @ 15” where stem begins (new)
- Measure the diameter at 4.5 feet instead of 4 feet (new)
- Mulch the Tree Protection Zone (already in specs)
- Report if damage occurs within 6 hours (already in specs)
- Tree Inventory - with written documentation, photos, and appraisals (new)
- Add appendix details to the site plans (already in specs)
- Add language for moving trees (planning commission) (new)
- Require OSHA cuts/shoring to be shown on grading and drainage plans (new)
- Add language that if a heritage tree straddles the buildable area that it is to be protected (new)
- Add penalty language that is clear for each violation (new)

Some of the above exists in the specs but has not been enforced over the years. Some is new. Either way, the Council should carefully consider the impacts (positive and negative) and the unintended consequences of the above.

11. SB 231 - Stormwater Systems

Governor Brown signed SB 231 into law on October 6. SB 231 addresses how Proposition 218 applies to fees for municipal stormwater systems. Proposition 218 requires a public hearing with a majority protest process before adopting any fees for a property-related service. Proposition 218 also requires voter approval for these fees, but specifically exempts water, sewer and refuse collection fees from the voter approval requirement. 

Since a 2002 court decision, stormwater fees were not considered exempt and a stormwater fee could not be imposed unless the voters approve it. SB 231 exempts a stormwater fee by including it in the definition of “sewer.” The definition of “sewer” now reads “…includes systems, all real estate, fixtures, and personal property owned, controlled, operated, or managed in connection with or to facilitate sewage collection, treatment, or disposition for sanitary or drainage purposes, including lateral and connecting sewers, interceptors, trunk and outfall lines, sanitary sewage treatment or disposal plants or works, drains, conduits, outlets for surface or storm waters, and any and all the works, property, or structures necessary or convenient for the collection or disposal of sewage, industrial waste, or surface or storm waters.” 

The full text of the legislation can be found here

We may be looking into this in the future as a means of recouping the cost of operating and maintaining the Town’s drainage infrastructure. However, it is likely that as cities rely on SB 231 to adopt dedicated stormwater fees, there will be litigation to resolve questions about the new law. It may serve us well to watch this closely as it evolves before pulling the trigger on any new fee.

12. Articles of Note

13. Grade Separations - Menlo Park

As the Council is aware, the Town has not had any formal conversations with Menlo Park regarding their potential grade separation project along the rail corridor. On October 10, the Menlo Park City Manager asked if the Town had a formal policy in regard to grade separations. I advised that the Town did not; however, we did have a formal Rail Policy (HSR - which I provided). 

I also advised that coincidentally, one of our Transportation Committee members reported a couple of weeks ago that he was advised by a staffer at MP (hearsay) that the Town was not at all interested in having the conversation about rail lines and stood opposed to any changes in track elevation through Atherton and as a result, MP had to stop their plans far short of Encinal to allow the tracks to come back to grade. I told the Committee Member that to my knowledge, the Town had not had such a conversation with MP and that we had not considered support or opposition - other than financial. 

I advised the MP City Manager that I am sure that the Council would be interested in a conversation about it with appropriate detail. If MP is interested in exploring the idea at crossings in MP that would result in partially elevated track into Atherton, perhaps a presentation to the Council on the topic and a collaborative approach to doing so. I advised that I know that the Town would not be interested in any financial contribution, but, unless there is impact to the Town’s Park property or adjacent residential (unlikely as this is past Watkins), it’s likely they would not object to pursuit of it by MP as it might facilitate or accelerate Quad Gates at Watkins. The one concern that would be raised is what the impact would be at Encinal (raised, depressed or closed). 

I anticipate that members of the Menlo Park Council may reach out to you as they advised staff to reach out to the Town at their recent Council meeting on the topic. 

14. Account Technician Position

As the Council is aware, we have been using the services of a temporary agency for the Account Technician position (Rohini). As you are also aware, we cannot continue to do so indefinitely under CalPERS law. We have been recruiting for the permanent person to fill the role and staff completed interviews this week. 

We have offered the position to Marytere (Tere) Ruiz-Atkinson. We received glowing references from her work at the CIty of Belmont, Belmont Fire, and South San Francisco Fire. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Business Administration and we expect her to be here for the next 3-4 years at least as she completes her degree. Her start date is Monday, October 30. She lives in Foster City. 

October 6, 2017 Weekly Council Notes

1. Holiday Closure

For the past few years for the December holiday, Town Hall shut down for an extended period of time and staff used banked leave time or leave without pay for the period of closure. The closure is well received and there have been no issues that arose during the breaks. The closure does not affect the Police Department staff. The Town also benefits in that we were divested of leave time that we might otherwise have to payout or cash out. There were no negative comments received from the public and/or contractors. 

Below are the closures in the past few years, including the actual paid holiday days:

  • In 2013, Town Hall was closed from Monday, December 23 through Wednesday, January 1 - 8 days.
  • In 2014, Town Hall was closed from Wednesday, December 24 through Friday, January 2 - 8 days.
  • In 2015, Town Hall was closed from Thursday, December 24 through Friday, Friday, January 1 - 7 days.
  • In 2016, Town Hall was closed from Friday, December 23 at noon through Monday, January 2 - 6.5 days.

For 2017, Christmas Day falls on a Monday and New Year’s Day falls on the following Monday. Town Hall will be closed Monday, December 25 through Monday, January 1 -  6 days. As with prior closures, there are 2 paid holidays in the closure schedule and the remaining days are made up by any banked leave or unpaid leave (4 days). 

Except for Christmas and New Year's days, the closures do not affect construction hours and operation. Inspections are limited to critical path inspections. The closures do not affect emergency operations or any necessary field activity for Public Works or the Police Department. 

Nov 09

Your Property Tax Dollar

Posted on November 9, 2017 at 1:16 PM by George Rodericks

I was recently the guest speaker at a Friends of Holbrook Palmer Park Reception. I spoke about the various Town projects and activities, as well as the Town's Budget. 

During my presentation, a question was asked about how much the Town receives from the basic property taxes paid by local residents. I advised that the Town receives approximately 8 1/2 cents for every dollar a local resident pays in basic property taxes. There was a bit of shock to that answer as many believed that the Town receives much more than that.

The basic 1% property tax paid on the assessed valuation of your property is divided up amongst various taxing entities based on your tax rate area. The percentage that the Town receives is not under its control and was set by the State after the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978. In addition to the basic percentage, the Town, County, and the Menlo Park Fire Protection District also receive a portion of ERAF (Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund). ERAF is technically local tax dollars subverted by the State in the 1990s to fund its mandate for local schools. For those counties where basic aid is sufficient, ERAF is returned, in part, to the agencies from whence it came. It is not a guaranteed source of revenue and all or portions of it may be held by the State at any time. As such, the Town does not rely on ERAF as an operational revenue source. Nonetheless, it is added to the Town's allocation of property tax raising our amount by roughly 2 cents for each dollar.

Property Tax Dollar II.jpg

In general, the largest allocations for most Atherton property owners of each dollar of basic property taxes (including any ERAF) is distributed as follows: 23.6 cents goes to the County of San Mateo, 16.6 cents goes to Menlo Park City Elementary Schools, 15.7 cents goes to Menlo Park Fire Protection District, 15.6 cents goes to Sequoia High School, and 10.6 cents goes to the Town of Atherton.

So how does that compare to other agencies in the County? 

Some communities impose special assessments, such as landscape and lighting, etc. on top of their basic collection rates. These are shown in the table below. The table shows the basic collection rate (before the State takes away ERAF), adds any other rates of collection, and provides a total. Atherton is toward the bottom of the pack in terms of its tax collection. 

Comparative Property Tax Agencies.jpg
Atherton has 2,460 single-family residential parcels with a total taxable value of $9,057,200,997. The average property assessed valuation is approximately $3,681,789. The basic 1% property tax on that valuation is $36,817.89. The Town would receive (including ERAF) $3,887.97 plus the Parcel Tax - average of $750. If the Town's Parcel Tax were added as a percentage to the above table, the Town's total percentage would be 0.1259 moving us up 1 spot in the table. It's important to recognize that nearly every community in the list above Atherton has commercial sales tax as a revenue source in addition to what they receive in basic residential property taxes. Atherton does not. Basic property taxes represent the largest single revenue source to the Town's operations. 

So how do those revenues compare to the operational budget?

In Fiscal Year 2016/17, the Town received $7,525,720 in basic secured property taxes. Compare that to Fiscal Year 2011/12, the Town received $5,947,515. Revenue from basic secured property taxes increased by $1,578,205 over that 5-year period (a little over 5% a year).

Revenue from the Parcel Tax each year is static and restricted at an additional $1,860,000. The Parcel Tax may only be used for capital infrastructure (streets/drainage only) or front-line law enforcement (police services). It is presently divided 80% to capital infrastructure and 20% to front-line law enforcement - it provides for two (2) additional officers beyond basic deployment requirements - one (1) traffic officer and one (1) school resource officer.   

The Town's Operational Budget in Fiscal Year 2011/12 was $11,736,304. In Fiscal Year 2016/17, the Town's Operational Budget was $12,406,719. Expenditures increased by $670,415 over that 5-year period (a little over 1% a year).  

In Fiscal Year 2016/17, revenue from the basic secured property tax and the front-line law enforcement portion of the parcel tax totaled $7,897,720. Operational expenditures (not capital infrastructure costs) for Fiscal Year 2016/17 totaled $12,406,719. Revenue from the basic secured property taxes and the operational portion of the parcel tax falls far short of the annual requirement for Town operations, let alone the costs required for capital infrastructure.

To close the operational and capital infrastructure funding gap, the Town uses revenue from various other sources, to include:
  • 80% of the Parcel Tax for streets/drainage - $1,488,000
  • Franchise Fees (CalWater, Refuse Services, Cable) - $793,245
  • Business Licenses - $235,916
  • Planning/Zoning Fees - $265,300
  • Building Permit Fees - $1,720,950
  • Police Services Revenues - $95,049
  • Public Works Revenues - $324,994
  • Park Program Revenues - $256,422
  • Other Miscellaneous Grants and Revenues - $334,294
Revenues that come in over and above the Town's operational budget requirements are generally directed to three (3) priorities:
  1. Paying down any pension or other post employment benefit (OPEB) liabilities
  2. Contributing toward the Town's Capital Project Needs
  3. Mandatory Reserve
The Town has met its funding obligation for OPEB and is contributing the full annual required contribution amounts for any pension obligations. The Town also meets its required 35% Mandatory Reserve. That leaves Capital Project needs. The strategy for future revenues over expenditures are directed largely to Capital Project needs in one or more of five (5) Master Plan buckets:
  • Civic Center Project
  • Drainage Master Plan
  • Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan
  • Park Master Plan
  • Streets Master Plan 
High-priority projects are identified in each Master Plan and the Council prioritizes each project based on priority, funding required, and timing. These projects are laid out in the Town's 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Over the next 5-years (excluding the Civic Center Project), the Town's CIP allocates $12,812,750 toward drainage, streets/roads, transportation, facilities and park projects - an average of $2,562,550 per year.  

For more information on any of the above, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. 


George Rodericks
City Manager
(650) 752-0504

* Property Tax Data provided by HdL Coren & Cone

Nov 08

The Town's Interactive Fiscal Transparency Tool

Posted on November 8, 2017 at 8:07 AM by George Rodericks

Interactive Fiscal Transparency Tool

Portal Image.jpg

On the Town's website, you are able to visit the Archive Center and scroll through online Town Budgets, Audited Financial Statements, and Actuarial Valuations and much, much more. But one of the most underutilized tools on the Town website is the Interactive Fiscal Transparency Tool.  

The Interactive Fiscal Transparency Tool allows the user to drill down into the Town’s financial data and pull out tables, charts, and graphs that reflect a specific issue or data set.

For example, using the online tool, you can pull out the Town’s Actual Secured Property Tax History for the past 9 years - from 2007/08 through FY 2015/16 (chart below). CORRECTION: I updated the chart and link. I was using ALL GF Revenues versus simply Secured Property Tax Revenue to the General Fund. Revenue to the Town fluctuated across all the General Fund Revenue Sources and dipped year over year. In FY 15/16, there was a significant drop in the State's Triple Flip/Sales Tax to Property Tax Swap and Sales and Use Tax that caused the $600,000 drop from 14/15 to 15/16 that I noted in the prior iteration. However, the chart was supposed to reflect only Secured Property Taxes. It is now corrected below. 

Secured Property Tax Revenue.jpg

Source Data:

07/08 - $4,187,323

08/09 - $4,453,344

09/10 - $4,740,094

10/11 - $4,818,793

11/12 - $4,908,375

12/13 - $5,380,057

13/14 - $5,888,607

14/15 - $6,329,484

15/16 - $6,923,099

The Town receives, on average, 8.5 cents for every dollar a resident pays in property taxes. The other 91.5 cents goes to other taxing entities. The data reflects that in FY 2007/08, the Town received secured property tax revenue of $4,187,323. However, over that 9 year history, the Town’s assessed property valuations (the basis upon which property taxes are collected) have increased, reflecting a net gain in annual revenue to the Town of $2.7 million over that 9-year time period. 

Secured Property Taxes - Interactive Transparency Tool Link

Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF)

The Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund or ERAF is actually local property taxes collected as part of the Town’s property tax base; BUT, these revenues are first diverted to the State to allow the State to make its minimum required distribution to schools. If the schools within a particular county do not need State aid (mostly affluent jurisdictions), the State is supposed to return the property taxes it collected back to the local agency from whence they came. This started occurring in the early 1990s when the State could not balance its budget. At this time, there are only 3 counties in the State of California that receive ERAF funds back - Marin, Napa, and San Mateo. This revenue, like basic property taxes, has generally increased each year. However, it is not guaranteed revenue and can fluctuate dramatically year over year. Furthermore, each year, as part of the State’s budget process, the State Legislature attempts to re-appropriate more and more of the ERAF funds for State purposes rather than return it to local agencies. The chart below shows ERAF revenue to the Town since 2007/08.

ERAF Revenue.jpg

Source Data:

07/08 - $493,667

08/09 - $547,368

09/10 - $755,969

10/11 - $700,281

11/12 - $723,820

12/13 - $896,666 - stopped counting on ERAF as guaranteed revenue

13/14 - $1,027,531

14/15 - $1,133,469

15/16 - $1,074,722

Prior to FY 2012/13, the Town used ERAF to fund its operational budget. Our budget depended on it even though it was not guaranteed revenue. In FY 2012/13, we removed ERAF from our operational budget so that we were no longer dependent upon it (just in case it entirely disappeared one day). Instead of budgeting ERAF into its operational budget, the Town uses ERAF, once received, to pay down any long term liabilities, fund one-time capital projects, or contribute to the Town’s mandatory 35% Reserve. Financially, this means that the Town is less dependent on resources that are not guaranteed year over year AND it means that the Town has a revenue source in addition to the Parcel Tax that can be used for one-time capital projects and the payment of any long-term debt. 

As you can tell, ERAF has generally increased year over year, with limited exception. Then again, in any given year, it may disappear entirely

ERAF - Interactive Transparency Tool Link

General Fund Revenues

Revenue to the Town’s General Fund comes from various sources. These sources include land use fees, building permits, encroachment permits, park use fees, fines and forfeitures, franchise fees, and property taxes. The single largest contribution to the General Fund comes from Property Taxes. The chart below shows General Fund Revenues from FY 2007/08 to FY 2015/16.

General Fund Revenues.jpg

Source Data:

07/08 - $10,295,986

08/09 - $8,957,457

09/10 - $9,782,565

10/11 - $10,535,997

11/12 - $10,619,144

12/13 - $10,781,767

13/14 - $11,801,880

14/15 - $13,363,810

15/16 - $13,069,949

As you can see, the Town was not immune to the 2009 downtown in the market and it was reflected in the Town’s total general fund revenue in FYs 2008/09 and 2009/10. In FYs 2007/08 through FY 2011/12, ERAF was still included in the Town’s basic General Fund Revenue. As noted above, we removed it from the Town’s Operational Budget beginning in FY 2012/13. That said, the Town’s overall General Fund Revenue has increased by $2.8 million since FY 2007/08. It is important to note however, revenues dropped in FY 2008/09, 2009/10, and 2015/16. 

General Fund Revenue - Interactive Transparency Tool Link

General Fund Expenditures

General Fund Expenditures are the Town’s Basic Operational Costs. These expenditures do not include large capital projects like street or drainage improvements, but they do include regular and routine basic maintenance obligations. Expenditures include all of the Town’s departments - Administration, Police, Building, Planning, Legal, and Public Works - which includes the Park. As you can tell from the chart, General Fund expenditures have largely been static over the 9 year period. Actual expenditures in FY 2015/16 were only $78,439 more than they were in FY 2007/08. 

General Fund Expenditures.jpg

Source Data:

07/08 - $10,678,894

08/09 - $10,308,867

09/10 - $11,224,668

10/11 - $11,678,513

11/12 - $11,590,133

12/13 - $10,484,327

13/14 - $11,776,637

14/15 - $11,621,731

15/16 - $10,757,333

General Fund Expenditures - Interactive Transparency Tool Link 

One of the things I watch as the City Manager is the trend lines between Revenue and Expenditures. As you can see in the Chart below, in FY 2007/08 through FY 2011/12, the Town was actually operating in the “red” with General Fund expenditures exceeding its basic General Fund Revenues - that's an operational deficit. There were a variety of reasons for this, but as a general rule, that certainly should not be the default. In those years, the Town could not realistically address its operational costs, let alone address its failing infrastructure. Following the Town’s reorganization in FY 2011/12, the Town right-sized itself and began a program to control expenditures and direct resources to the failing infrastructure in the Civic Center, the streets, the drainage system, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and the Park. 

It is not anticipated that the funding excess will continue. Costs for infrastructure will increase and year over year we get less for the same or more investment. Further, while staffing costs are not increasing as rapidly, they will increase. 

GF Revenues and Expenditures.jpg

Cost of Police Services

Police Services represent the Town’s single largest expenditure for operations. While you could see above that the overall Town General Fund Expenditures were not much higher than they were in FY 2007/08, as a percentage of that total, the cost of Police Services has grown.  The Chart below shows the increase in the cost of Police Services from FY 2007/08 to FY 2015/16.

Cost of Police Services.jpg

Source Data:

07/08 - $5,020,507

08/09 - $5,049,033

09/10 - $5,727,920

10/11 - $5,405,959

11/12 - $5,839,302

12/13 - $5,675,589

13/14 - $5,688,725

14/15 - $6,212,858

15/16 - $6,463,872

Cost of Police Services - Interactive Transparency Tool Link

Overall, it’s a big number. Year over year, the cost for Police Services have increased about 3% a year going from $5,020,507 in FY 2007/08 to $6,463,872 in FY 2015/16. Largely built on personnel costs, staffing for the Police Department has fluctuated more dramatically during that same period of time. The following chart overlays the cost of police services with the fluctuations in Police staffing levels. 

Cost of Police Services with Staff Levels.jpg

The Police Department has 29 employees consisting of 21 sworn officers - a Police Chief, a Commander, 5 Sergeants, 14 Officers; and 8 non-sworn - 1 Executive Assistant/Training Manager, 2 Community Service Officers (one evidence and one code enforcement), and 5 Dispatchers. The Police Department operates 24/7. To provide 1 sergeant and 2 officers per 12-hour shift requires a minimum of 5 Sergeants and 10 officers. The additional 4 officers are dedicated to traffic enforcement (2 motorcycle officers), 1 detective, and 1 school resource officer. To operate at optimum, a minimum of 5 dispatchers are needed to operate the Dispatch Center 24/7.  

Public - Private Partnerships

In 2011/12, the Town went through a series of reductions in staff as a result of a couple of years of lower revenues following the 2009 recession. General Fund revenues dropped by nearly $600,000 from a high in 2007/08 of $10.3 million to a low in 2009/10 of $9.7 million. Following this reduction in force, instead of hiring back staff, the Town engaged in a number of public-private partnerships. 

A public-private partnership (P3) is a contractual arrangement between a public agency and a private sector entity. Through this agreement, the skills and assets of each sector (public and private) are shared in delivering a service or facility for the use of the general public. The Town uses private sector contracts for services for:

- Planning Department Services (3 - 4 staff)
- IT Services (2 )
- Risk Management Services (as needed)
- Training (as needed)
- Building Department Services (5)
- Public Works Field Services (5)
- Legal Services (2)

Police and Administration Services are in-house staff and there are some in-house staff sprinkled into each of the contract service areas for oversight and responsibility. These are:

- 3 Staff in the Town's Administration Services Department - City Manager, City Clerk/Deputy City Manager, and Office Specialist/Deputy City Clerk
- 3 Staff in the Town's Finance Department - Finance Director, Junior Accountant, and Accounting Technician
- 1 Staff in the Building and Planning Offices - Offie Specialist
- 3 Staff in the Public Works Department - Public Works Superintendent, Associate Engineer, and Town Arborist

Contract staff are a part-time City Attorney and Deputy City Attorney, a Planning Manager, Planner and Associate Planner, a full-service Building Department (Official, Inspectors, Plan Checker, and Permit Clerk), Contract IT Manager and Services, Consortium Training and Risk Management, a City Engineer, and 5 Public Works Field Staff. 

Outside of the Police Department, there are 10 actual Town employees. The chart below shows the changes in staffing from FY 2007/08 to FY 2015/16. While the amount of Town-employed staff has reduced significantly, the requirements for services and the related service costs have not. However, one of the key benefits of the use of contract staff, where appropriate, is the elimination of long-term benefit liability. 

Staff Levels.jpg

Source Data:

07/08 - Total Staff - 54.5

08/09 - Total Staff - 53.1

09/10 - Total Staff - 50.35

10/11 - Total Staff - 47.6

11/12 - Total Staff - 35

12/13 - Total Staff - 34

13/14 - Total Staff - 36

14/15 - Total Staff - 36

15/16 - Total Staff - 39

Capital Project Expenditures

Capital Expenditures fluctuates from year to year based on the amount of funds available from the various sources for the Town’s Capital Improvement Project (CIP) Budget. These sources include or included over time - the Special Parcel Tax, County Measure A, County Measure M, State Gas Tax, and the Road Impact Fee. The Road Impact Fee, which used to provide significant revenue to the Town's Capital Improvement Project Fund, no longer exists as a revenue source and the Town’s CIP Budget is largely dependent on the Special Parcel Tax ($1,488,000), County Measure A ($340,000), County Measure M ($75,000), and State Gas Tax ($205,000). Beyond these funds, any surplus the Town has within its General Fund and ERAF provide supplemental and one-time funding for streets, drainage, facilities, and the Park. The chart below reflects the Town’s CIP Project Costs from FY 2007/08 to FY 2015/16. 

Capital Project Expenditures.jpg

Source Data:

07/08 - $1,403213

08/09 - $2,212,851

09/10 - $2,178,894

10/11 - $3,142,381

11/12 - $2,250,821

12/13 - $434,474

13/14 - $1,164,319

14/15 - $1,613,749

15/16 - $3,137,713

As you can see from the data, some years are “planning years” and some years are “project years” - largely because the amount of revenue received in the CIP is limited and sometimes not sufficient for the scope of particular projects. As an example, the Marsh Road Channel Improvement Project cost was $4 million. This singular project far exceeded the Town’s CIP revenues in a single fiscal year. As a result, the Town had to “save” then “spend” its CIP funds from one year to the next. 

Capital Project Expenditures - Interactive Transparency Tool Link

Civic Center Expenditures

The Civic Center Project is the Town’s most ambitious and most important Capital Project on the horizon. In total, the hard costs of building a new Library, City Hall, and Police Station along with the necessary site improvements will cost approximately $38 million. The Library, which is separately and fully funded, is approximately $15 million. The CIty Hall and Police Station are approximately $23 million. 

Anyone that has ever built a building knows well that the hard costs noted above do not represent the full actual cost due to soft costs of preliminary engineering, design, and other necessary planning. The soft costs for this project are approximately $5 million. Also, anyone involved in construction knows that you must build in something for contingencies - all the little “unknowns” that come up during construction. For this project, there is an additional $7 million set aside for contingencies. Overall, the budget for the project is $50 million - soft costs of $5 million, hard costs of $38 million, and contingencies of $7 million. The Town has been working on this project for many years. Expenditures to date total $4.8 million - mostly pre-project environmental and design. The chart below reflects the project costs from FY 2013/14 through FY 2017/18 (to date).

Civic Center Expenditures.jpg

Source Data:

FY 13/14 - City Hall/PD - $126,387

FY 14/15 - City Hall/PD - $412,355 | Library - $155,403

FY 15/16 - City Hall/PD - $555,290 | Library - $192,748

FY 16/17 - City Hall/PD - $2,586,645 | Library - $703,024

FY 17/18 - City Hall/PD - $83,505 | Library - $28,507

Total CIty Hall/PD = $3,763,992 / 78%

Total Library = $1,079,682 / 22%

Total = $4,843,674

The most recent cost estimate for the project can be found on the October 2017 Council Agenda. Overall, based on the size of the buildings, the construction cost per square foot of City Hall/Police Department is $437 a square foot and the Library is $232 per square foot (hard cost only).  


Thanks for taking the time to read through the above. I am happy to meet individually or talk further in depth on any of the above issues. 


George Rodericks

City Manager

Town of Atherton


(650) 752-0504

Source Data:

07/08 - $5,020,507

08/09 - $5,049,033

09/10 - $5,727,920

10/11 - $5,405,959

11/12 - $5,839,302

12/13 - $5,675,589

13/14 - $5,688,725

14/15 - $6,212,858

15/16 - $6,463,872