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.

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Nov 08

The Town's Interactive Fiscal Transparency Tool

Posted on November 8, 2017 at 8:07 AM by grodericks grodericks

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