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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 20

That's A Wrap! - November 15, 2017

Posted on November 20, 2017 at 10:43 AM by George Rodericks

Thats A Wrap Logo

Council Meeting Date: November 15, 2017
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/user/TownOfAtherton/featured

Details of each item can be found via the links to Staff Reports within the narrative. 

The City Council met for the October Regular Council meeting on Wednesday, November 15 beginning at 7 pm. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the Council moved to Public Comment and heard comments from presenters advising the Town about the recent Bay Area Air Quality Management District Regulation 11, Rule 18; and a local resident providing feedback regarding the recent Parcel Tax election.

Report.jpegFollowing Public Comment, the Council moved to the City Manager's Report. The City Manager's Report is prepared monthly as part of the City Council's Regular Agenda. In addition to current reports from the City Manager, it includes departmental updates on the various happenings around Town such as reports from Administration, Community Services, Planning, Police, and Public Works. 

After the City Manager's Report, the Council moved to the Consent Agenda consisting of Items 8 through 14. Items on the Consent Agenda are considered routine in nature and are generally considered in one motion and adopted by a single vote of the Council. Included in this month's Consent Agenda were minutes, bills, Treasurer's Report for September 30, 2017, Department Reorganization for Public Works, Acceptance of Work for Middlefield Road Improvements, Caltrain PCEP Agreement, and Rejection of Claims. Following discussion and comments to Item No. 12, Caltrain PCEP Agreement, the Council approved the Consent Agenda. With respect to Item No. 12, Caltrain provided public comment regarding the potential height of centerline poles and noise impacts. The Council directed that staff work with Caltrain to get additional information on potential pole heights and include a requirement within the PCEP Agreement that Caltrain provided the Town with input into pole selection alternatives if poles are going to be higher than 30 feet. The Council asked the Caltrain come to the next couple of City Council meetings to allow the Council to get an update and provide input.  

Next up was Public Hearings Item No. 15 - Request for Tentative Parcel Map for the Civic Center Project. This item was continued to the March 2018 Agenda.

Next, was the Regular Agenda beginning with Item No. 16, Middlefield Road Class II Bicycle Lanes Improvements Concept Plan. The 
Council heard the staff report and discussed issues related to the project involving the creation of Class II Bicycle Lane improvements along Middlefield Road. The Council discussed bicycle boxes, lane placement, striping, widening requirements, public comments, and project timing. Following discussion, feedback to staff and the opportunity for public comment, the Council moved to the next item. 

Item No. 17, Review of Plans for a Proposed Clay Tennis Court at Holbrook Palmer Park and Direction regarding acceptance and use, together with an extension of the Agreement with Player Capital Tennis was next. Following a staff report and opportunities for public comment, the Council discussed issues related to the cost of maintenance, cost for key issuance, number of key holders, requirements of the acceptance of the court donation, damage to the court if there was a drought, water requirements, bifurcation of the key cost structure and expectations for use of the court. After discussion of the issues, the Council formally accepted the donation of the clay court, authorized a 3-year extension of the agreement with Player Capital Tennis and directed staff to return at a future meeting with options for key pricing.

Next, was Item No. 18, a Discussion of Next Steps for Park Irrigation Systems and Update/Direction on Park Statuary. Following a staff report and opportunity for public comment, the Council expressed support for postponing irrigation decisions until after more is known about the Water Capture Facility and discussed the statuary further. During discussion, the Council raised issues related to the cost of refurbishment of the statuary (Diana Statue and Water Fountain), possible vendors for refurbishment, origin of the statuary, and opportunities for fundraising. The Council directed that staff store the statuary until such time as fundraising opportunities arise.

The last item on the Agenda was Item No. 19, Update on the Civic Center Project together with action and direction on various issues related to the project. Following a staff report on each item and the opportunity for public comment, the Council discussed issues related to a couple of change orders for the project (corporation yard landscaping requirements and site security and technology); utility easements, property line issues related to trees and heritage tree removal. The Council discussed the cost of the change orders, the need for each, and the ability to reduce them if possible. The Council discussed the relocation of Town redwood fencing along the west property line to properly reflect the property line location. Adjacent property owners comment and discussed options for fence placement and design. The Council heard reports on the cost model manager, project schedule, and recent actions by the Planning Commission.

The Council discussed in detail, the Commission's approval of up to 18 heritage tree removals. The Council heard that 5 trees were set for removal due to their condition, 6 trees were identified via the Commission and Project Management Committee for possible preservation and 7 trees (#'s 63, 67, 78, 101, 115, 119, & 120) were slated for removal due to their location within the project. Following discussion, the Council directed that staff identify the possible cost, design changes, and feasibility for preserving the remaining 7 trees and return to Council at a future meeting for discussion and further direction.  

Following Council Reports and Final Public Comments, having cleared the entire Agenda, at approximately 11:00 pm, that, as they say - was a wrap!

The Council will hold its next Study Session meeting on December 6 at 4 pm. Tentative items for that Agenda include:
  • Presentation by CalWater on Proposed Rate Adjustments
  • City Council Review of a Letter from Menlo Park Regarding Possible Grade Separation Options into Atherton along the Rail Corridor
  • Discussion of Next Steps for Capital Projects and Funding Following the Recent Parcel Tax Election Results 

George_2.jpgThanks for reading!

George Rodericks
City Manager
Town of Atherton


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