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.

Apr 22

That's A Wrap! - April 21, 2021

Posted on April 22, 2021 at 8:10 AM by grodericks grodericks

Thats A Wrap

Council Meeting Date: April 21, 2021
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 April Regular Meeting on Wednesday, April 21 at 6 pm via Zoom Teleconference pursuant to the Governor's Executive Order. Following the Roll Call the Council began moving through the Agenda beginning with Presentations. The Council heard a College Campus Update - Navigating the Pandemic presentation by Menlo College; and a Presentation by Peninsula Clean Energy on Reach Codes. The Council provided direction to staff to meet with Peninsula Clean Energy and prepare an evaluation of Reach Codes for Atherton, including outreach to the Builder's Roundtable for feedback, to present to the City Council for possible next steps. Following presentations, the Council moved to Public Comments.  There were no Public Comments. 

ReportFollowing Public Comment, the Council moved to the City Manager's Report. The City Manager's Report is typically prepared monthly as part of the City Council's Regular Agenda. In addition to current reports from the City Manager, it typically includes departmental updates on the various happenings around Town such as reports from Administration, Community Services, Planning, Police, and Public Works. The City Manager advised that the April City Manager's Report did not make the Agenda and will be presented instead in May.  

Consent_AgendaFollowing the City Manager's Report, the Council moved to the Consent Agenda consisting of Items 6 and 8 (~6:55 pm). 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 of various meetings, bills and claims, and award of a contract for the Pavilion Restroom Remodel project.  

Public_Hearing_ImageNext was Public Hearings.

Public Hearings are typically held for Ordinances, Budget Adoption, Fee Adoption, and Land Use approvals. 

There were no Public Hearings scheduled for the April 21 Council meeting.


Regular_Agenda_ImageNext up was the Regular Agenda (~7:00 pm).

Item No. 9 was Certification of Continuing Emergency and Ratification fo Such Rules and Regulations Enacted by the Director of Emergency Services in Response to COVID-19. The City Manager provided an overview of the Town's purpose for the Emergency Declaration and an overview of the emergency powers so enacted. The City Manager advised that the Town's Emergency Services Ordinance defines an emergency as "...the actual or threatened existence of conditions of disaster or of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property within the Town caused by such conditions as air pollution, fire, flood, storm, epidemic, riot or earthquake, or other conditions, including conditions resulting from war or imminent threat of war..." A pandemic, which will typically last for an extended period time, qualifies as an emergency. In addition to prescribing emergency powers, the declaration of emergency also sets up a chain of fiscal recovery that allows the Town to recoup costs associated with response to the emergency. Absent the declaration of and the continuation of a local emergency, Town costs associated with response to the emergency at worst would either not be eligible for federal or state reimbursement or at best, difficult to collect. When under a disaster declaration, the Director of Emergency Services (the City Manager) has certain practical powers that are not typically present under normal operations. These include the power to make and issue rules and regulations on matters reasonably related to the protection of life and property as affected by such emergency, obtain vital supplies, equipment and other property necessary for the protection of life and property, including acquiring by commandeering such equipment for public use if necessary, and conscript personnel or materials to the aid of the Town. Any action taken by the Director of Emergency Services that goes above and beyond the ordinary powers of the City Manager are ratified at the earliest and practicable time by the City Council. The Town's regular certification of continuing emergency serves to provide transparency. Following public comment and brief discussion related to transparency and public engagement, the Council adopted the Certification of Continuing Emergency due to COVID-19. 

Item No. 10 was Consideration of appointments to the Environmental Programs Committee and Transportation Committee. (~7:10 pm) The City Manager provided a brief staff report reiterating the roles and rules provided in the City Council's Resolution Governing Committees. The City Manager advised that all Committees are advisory and are subject to the City Council Rules of Procedure, Municipal Code, Political Reform Act and the Brown Act. Committee members serve at the pleasure of the Council. Collectively, committees are encouraged to advocate positions to the City Council on matters under the purview of their respective committee. Each Committee has a charter known as their powers and duties. Work of the Committee is typically bound by this charter. The Committee as a whole makes recommendations to the City Council on areas within their charter. The City Council may accept, modify or reject any recommendation from a Committee. Following public comment and discussion, the City Council appointed Patti Spezzaferro to fill an unexpired term on the Environmental Programs Committee, term expires June 2023; and Christine David to fill an unexpired term on the Transportation Committee, term expires June 2023.   

Next up was Item No. 11. Item No. 11 was a review of the staff recommendations regarding the condition of the center lane street trees on Tuscaloosa Avenue and Mt. Vernon. (~7:20 pm) The City Manager provided a brief staff report addressing the Arborist's review of the two trees in question and the staff recommendations regarding each. Staff recommended that the Tuscaloosa tree be trimmed with a re-evaluation after a year and that the tree on Mt. Vernon be removed immediately. The City Manager advised that staff does not recommend replacing the trees in the center of the roadway. However, the City Manager advised that if it is the Council’s desire to consider replacement of the tree(s), staff would recommend replacing the trees with street-appropriate trees (trees that consider root and debris impact) and that an appropriately sized raised median area be built  to accommodate the tree(s). This may require the widening of the lanes on either side of the tree(s) and that will require encroachments into the rights-of-way frontages of the adjacent properties. The City Manager advised that typically staff has the authority to make decisions related to trees in this condition and has come forth with a recommendation to do so. However, because of the significance of these trees and their significance to the neighborhood's staff is bringing these two issues to the CIty Council for concurrence before acting. The Council discussed issues related to community engagement, liability, fiscal responsibility, replacement tree options, cost of replacement, and type of tree. Following public comment and discussion, the City Council directed that staff remove both the Tuscaloosa tree and the Mt. Vernon tree due to their decay conditions. Following public comment and discussion, the Council directed that staff advise the neighborhood of the pending removal. In addition, the Council directed that staff return to the City Council with considered options for replacement of the trees either in, at, or near their original locations; as well as the considered cost for replacement of a significant enough tree for the area. The Council also asked that staff conduct an evaluation of other street trees that may be in similar conditions.

Item No. 12 was Consideration of Acceptance of a $52,250 donation in support of the purchase of additional ALPR cameras and provide direction regarding the lease of an additional 10 ALPR cameras. (~7:56 pm) The City Manager provided a brief staff report advising that staff has received a donation offer of $52,250 for a two-year agreement for the placement of additional ALPR cameras to help fill the gaps in the Town's camera system. The donor has requested to remain anonymous but indicated that s/he would consider making an additional donation in support of continuing the 10 ALPRs installed in the future. As noted in the staff report, there are presently 33 camera locations, most are already installed but some are in the progress of installation. The list of 10 additional locations for the new cameras provided by the Chief in the staff report is where the Police Department’s evaluation has concluded that there are gaps in the system of coverage. The Council is free to make amendments to that list. The Council discussed issues related to camera placement, gaps in the system of coverage, removal of cameras, and future cost. Following public comment and discussion, the Council accepted the donation and the additional 10 locations but also directed staff to continue to evaluate the camera locations and continue to fill any gaps in coverage in the system. 

Item No. 13 was review and approval of the draft 2021 Sustainability Work Plan and Budget for the Environmental Programs Committee. (~8:09 pm) The City Manager provided a brief staff report noting that the Sustainability Work Plan was created by the Environmental Programs Committee. The City Manager noted that the City Council can reduce, enhance, or modify the Plan. The Work Plan for 2021 consists of a commemorative plaque to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day near a tree as part of the Town Center's Landscape Plan and participation in the Seed Paper Bookmark Program. The Council discussed issues related to Earth Day, flyer verbiage, timing of the commemorative plaque, the seed program, and types of plants/seeds. Following public comment and discussion, the Council approved the 2021 Sustainability Work Plan.

Item No. 14 was release of a Request for Proposal for a Sustainability Coordinator Consultant. (~8:22 pm) The City Manager provided a brief staff report noting that staff recommended the addition of a consultant to serve as the Town's Sustainability Coordinator as part of the FY 2021/22 Budget. The City Manager advised that the Request for proposal outlines the scope of work for the consultant. The firm or individual selected would work directly through the City Manager's Office in support of the Town's Climate Action Plan efforts and the Environmental Programs Committee work. Moving the consultant and EPC under the City Manager's Office umbrella elevates the work effort and provides additional oversight. The RFP outlines some of the anticipated duties and roles of the Coordinator across the broad spectrum of areas. The Council discussed issues related to role and responsibilities for the Coordinator, review criteria and timing of responses. Following public comment and discussion, the Council authorized released of the Request for Proposal extending submittal and review deadlines by 1 week but maintaining the approval at the June Regular City Council meeting. In addition, the City Manager will amend the review criteria before release of the document. 

Item No. 15 was the Annual Report for the Police Department. (~8:30 pm) Following a brief staff presentation, the City Council discussed issues related to succession planning, crime statistics, crime activity, and enforcement measures efficacy. This Report was informational only. 

The last item on the Agenda was Item No. 16, Town Center Project Update, Approval of Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment Phase #2, and feedback regarding donor pathway alternatives. (~8:45 pm) The City Manager provided a brief staff report outlining the Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment included in Phase #2 for the Project. The City Council discussed the various furniture selections and made minor amendments to the outdoor furniture items before approval of the Phase #2 purchase as amended (chairs @12, tables @4, and stones @2). The City Manager then presented options for the Donor Pathway. The City Council discussed the various design options and made suggestions related to selection of the white hall stone, feather edges for the stone placement in the original stone orientation, retention of the seating near Historic Town Hall, elimination of the edge of the pavers near the new planter bed and recognition of donors at $1,000 or more in the donor pathway. Staff was directed to revise the design as noted and provide it to the Town's contractor for an estimate of cost and return both to the City Council for consideration. 

Having cleared the entire Agenda, at approximately 9:34 pm, that as they say - was a wrap!


The next meeting of the City Council will be a Special Meeting/Study Session on April 28 at 4 pm. The April 28 meeting will be a Joint Meeting with the Town's Planning Commission to discuss the state of the State Legislature on Housing and discussion of options for the Town's consideration in the new Housing Element Update to comply with the new Regional Housing Needs Allocation. 

GeorgeThanks for reading!

George Rodericks
City Manager

Town of Atherton
grodericks@ci.atherton.ca.us



Mar 18

That's A Wrap! - March 17, 2021

Posted on March 18, 2021 at 7:56 AM by grodericks grodericks

Thats A Wrap

Council Meeting Date: March 17, 2021
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 March Regular Meeting on Wednesday, March 17 at 6 pm via Zoom Teleconference pursuant to the Governor's Executive Order. Following the Roll Call the Council began moving through the Agenda beginning with Presentations. The Council presented Proclamations to Commander Joe Wade and Officer Don Dunphy on their retirements and heard a presentation from HIP Housing. Following presentations, the City Attorney reported out of Closed Session - No Action Taken, Direction to Staff and the Council moved to Public Comments. 

Public Comments related to landscaping and screening of the Corporation Yard, State Legislation related to CalWater, and construction on Snowden Avenue at Lloyden Drive.

ReportFollowing 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. The City Manager and Police Chief provided brief comments on police statistics, permit revenue, and an upcoming E-Shred, E-Waste and Compost Event on April 17. 

Consent_AgendaFollowing the City Manager's Report, the Council moved to the Consent Agenda consisting of Items 6 and 12 (~6:36 pm). 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 of various meetings, bills and claims, Certification of the Continuing Local Emergency (COVID-19), 2020 General Plan Report, Approval of a Proposal for Consulting Work by R3 Consulting Group, and awards of bid to various Street Projects. Following brief comments on the Certification of Continuing Local Emergency, the Council approved the Consent Agenda. 

Public_Hearing_ImageNext was Public Hearings.

Public Hearings are typically held for Ordinances, Budget Adoption, Fee Adoption, and Land Use approvals. 

There were no Public Hearings scheduled for the March 17 Council meeting.


Regular_Agenda_ImageNext up was the Regular Agenda (~6:45 pm).

Item No. 13 was the Town Center Project Update, Feedback and Direction on the Communications Building, and City Council Ad Hoc Subcommittee Reports and Direction. Following a staff report and opportunity for public comment, the Council discussed the various design opportunities for the communications building for the project. The Council provide staff with direction in support of the modular building design with particular attention to the building's screening and security needs. The Council then heard a report from the Ad Hoc Subcommittee of the City Council reporting on the Legends of Atherton. The Council provided feedback to the Ad Hoc Subcommittee related to use of the Historic Town Hall and Train Station, securing the train station site, integrating the history of the train station, and seeking more details regarding how to engage the community in the process. The Council then heard a report from the Council Liaison for the Donor Wall. The Council provided feedback on the design elements for the proposed Donor Wall, how to engage Atherton Now in the design determination process, and expressed support for the use the material types and aesthetic - bronze, stone, or glass in a traditional/classical look. 

Following Item No. 13, at approximately 8:05 pm the Council considered an Urgency Item related to Community Project Funding Opportunities presented by Congresswoman Eshoo. Receipt of the Request for Funding Opportunities was received after posting of the Agenda with a filing requirement prior to the next City Council meeting. Following an Urgency Vote to add the item to the Agenda, the Council heard a brief staff report concerning the request and provided staff with direction. Staff presented the Cover Letter and CPF Funding Agency List to the Council received from Congresswoman Eshoo. The Council provided feedback around 6 potential project areas:

- Emergency Communications (ADAPT/PD/Fire Joint Communications)
- Green Infrastructure Projects
- Bike Lanes (Atherton Avenue, Selby Lane, El Camino Real)
- Caltrain Path to Menlo Park Train Station
- Marsh Road Channel Cover and Bicycle/Pedestrian Lane
- Park Circulation or Improvement Project(s)

Following discussion the Council directed that staff determine the most shovel ready projects, determine the process for submittal and circle back with the Mayor for concurrence before submitting a project or projects.  

Having cleared the entire Agenda, at approximately 8:15 pm, that as they say - was a wrap!


The next meeting of the City Council will be a Special Meeting/Study Session on April 7 at 4 pm. On the Agenda is a Proclamation for Dispatcher's Appreciation Week, the FY 2021/22 Operations Budget Presentation, and Consideration of a Colleague's Memorandum regarding Reach Codes.  

GeorgeThanks for reading!

George Rodericks
City Manager

Town of Atherton
grodericks@ci.atherton.ca.us



Mar 08

Where Does Your Property Tax Dollar Go?

Posted on March 8, 2021 at 1:58 PM by grodericks grodericks

The Perennial Question about Your Property Tax Dollar

One of the issues that is sometimes a mystery to many are where exactly do one's property taxes go? It is often thought that property taxes are collected by the Town and/or the County and then provided to the Town for its use in providing municipal services. That may be true in part, but only a small part.

Each year, the County provides an Assessed Valuation for every parcel in Town. The County then assesses each parcel based on that Assessed Valuation for the basic 1% property tax (called the "General Tax" on your tax bill) and the property owner is required to remit that 1% as well as any other Special Taxes that are assessed by individual agencies.

It is the basic 1% that is divided amongst the various taxing entities, including the Town. Above the 1% are the Special Taxes. These may include special taxes or more commonly called "parcel taxes" imposed by school districts, sanitary districts or other agencies. These taxes are above and beyond your basic 1% General Tax and are typically voted upon by the electorate as part of their approval process. Most parcels in Atherton will have a Special Tax from the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District, Sequoia High School Bond Issue, San Mateo County Mosquito Abatement District, West Bay Sanitary District, and others. The amount of the tax will usually vary based on assessed value or parcel size. The Town used to have a Special Parcel Tax that averaged about $750 per parcel. This tax was assessed for roads, drainage and public safety. This tax was eliminated in 2017 and is no longer assessed.

The 1% General Tax Property Tax is divided up amongst the basic taxing entities in proportion to the rates established under Proposition 13. The Town receives approximately 8 1/2 cents for every dollar a local resident pays in basic property taxes. So, if a property has a Net Assessed Valuation of $6,000,000, the annual basic 1% property tax would be $60,000. Of that $60,000, the Town would receive about $5,100. 

Tax Rate Area MapThe County processes its Assessed Valuation and tax allocation based on your Tax Rate Area. There are about 39 Tax Rate Areas (TRAs) in Atherton. Not all taxing entities receive income from all of the TRAs. Most of the Town is situated in about 6 of the TRAs. 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 based on the service levels provided. In addition to the basic percentage, the Town also receives a portion dedicated to 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 for school districts, 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 withheld by the State at any time. More detail on tax agencies can be found here. 

The Town does not rely on ERAF as an operational revenue source. The Town uses the services of HdL Consultants to review its annual property tax revenue projections for budgeting purposes. A copy of that Report can be found here. Below is a table that reflects the Property Tax Dollar Breakdown for all agencies that receive a portion of the 1% General Tax. 

Property Tax Breakdown

Excluding ERAF, the table above reflects that the Town receives about $0.0857 cents of $1 dollar for its basic property tax revenue. There are line items in the table for ERAF for the Town and the Fire District; however, ERAF revenue to the Town and District are not guaranteed. ERAF is collected by the County and the Town's share of ERAF are withheld pending a State re-allocation process that typically reduces the full amount. The County receives, including ERAF, about 23.6 cents of your property tax dollar. Menlo Park City Elementary District receives about 16.6 cents; then Sequoia High District at 15.6 cents, then the Fire District at about 13.8 cents, and then the Town at its 8.6 cents. 

For the table above, note all of the other agencies that receive a portion of your basic property tax. These include San Mateo Junior College, County Education, County Library, Sequoia Hospital District, County Harbor District and others. Overall, about 31 cents of each tax dollar goes to some form of County services (Library, Harbor, Education, etc.) and another 39 cents goes to schools - about 70 cents of your property tax dollar goes to schools and the County. The remaining 30 cents is divided up amongst the other agencies with the Town receiving about 8.6 cents.  

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. Some communities are "full service" communities that provide water, sanitation, full public safety, or other services. These communities will have a higher General Tax rate regardless of whether they contract for the service or provide it directly. The table below shows the basic weighted general fund share of property taxes for each agency. Atherton is toward the bottom of the pack in terms of its tax collection. 

Tax Rates
 
For FY 2020/21, Atherton has 2,614 parcels with a total taxable value of $12,376,059,220. That value is up by about 6% from the prior year. For next year, the Town can anticipate property tax revenue of approximately $10.3 million. The County, at 26.6% could expect to receive approximately $33 million. Property tax is the Town's primary revenue source. It's also 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 single largest and the primary revenue source to the Town's operations.
 

So how do those revenues compare to the operational budget?

In Fiscal Year 2020/21, the Town received a total of $12,048,750 in revenue from property tax sources. These break down as follows:
  • Secured Property Taxes - $9,611,026
  • Unsecured Property Taxes - $479,795
  • SB 813 Redemption - $285,000
  • Property Transfer Tax - $421,000
  • Property Tax in Lieu of Vehicle License Fee - $1,251,929
Revenue from basic secured property taxes increased by a little over 6% from the prior year. The Town's Operational Budget in Fiscal Year 2020/21 was $15,241,014. The Operational Budget is divided up amongst the 9 different operational areas:
  • City Council - $64,117
  • Administration - $873,638
  • City Attorney - $300,000
  • Finance - $790,189
  • Planning - $353,383
  • Building - $1,145,950
  • Police - $8,383,779
  • Public Works - $2,441,964
  • Interdepartmental - $887,994
The difference between the $12,048,750 in property tax related revenue and the $15,241,014 in basic operational expenditures is made up through various fees, taxes, and permits. Approximately $918,000 comes from Franchise Fees on utilities (gas, garbage, cable). Another $1.4 million comes from Building Permit revenue, and another $680,000 comes from Public Works and Planning Permits. There are other small pockets of revenue sources, but full budget details can be found on the Town's website here

Revenue that comes in over and above the Town's Operational Budget requirements are generally directed to the following priorities:
  • Paying down any long term liabilities (debt service, pension or healthcare liabilities)
  • Contributing toward the Town's Capital Project Needs (streets, drainage, Park, etc.)
  • Maintaining the Town's Mandatory Reserves (35% of the Town's Operating Budget)
The Town meets its basic funding obligations for pensions, healthcare, debt service and its mandatory reserves. There is also an existing priority to eliminate any long-term debt associated with the Town Center Project at the earliest possible time. That leaves Capital Project needs. The strategy for future revenues over expenditures are directly largely to Capital Project and Infrastructure needs in one or more of seven (7) buckets: 
Each of the above have identified projects and priorities within. In total, the required need far exceeds the available short term revenue of the Town and the Town traditionally operates on a save-spend process for large capital projects and improvements. On average, excluding the Town Center Project, the Town will expend about $2.5m per year on capital project and infrastructure needs. Prior to 2017, the Town's Special Parcel Tax funded a large percentage of the street, roads and drainage infrastructure. In order to maintain the same level of funding, the Town must prioritize and allocate any excess General Funds received (revenues over expenditures).

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

George Rodericks
City Manager
grodericks@ci.atherton.ca.us
(650) 752-0504