District grapples with ongoing budget deficit

Palo Alto Unified’s 2016 tax misestimation and 2017 contract blunder will affect bottom line for several years

Palo Alto Weekly – by Elena Kadvany / January 19, 2018

Palo Alto Unified, a well-resourced district that has set ambitious and costly educational goals for the next several years, is facing a financial squeeze: There is no ongoing revenue to pay for budget additions in the next school year, staff said Thursday.

This prompted board President Ken Dauber to ask Interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks to come up with $3 million to $5 million in administrative cuts, an amount he warned “may not be ambitious enough” to address an ongoing deficit.

As costs grow, city may scale back garage plan

Palo Alto considers eliminating one of the basement levels at planned garage near California Avenue

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / January 19, 2018

With cost estimates rising dramatically, Palo Alto is considering scaling back its plans for the California Avenue area parking garage by removing one of the two planned underground levels.

The revision, which is proposed in a new report from the Public Works Department, would reduce the cost of the garage by between $6 million and $8 million at a time when the city’s overall infrastructure plan is facing a funding gap of about $50 million.

Palo Alto faces legal challenge over budget transfers

City’s practice of moving money from utility funds to General Fund may also hinge on Redding case

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / January 19, 2018

For more than a century, Palo Alto’s municipal utilities have served the city as both a provider of critical services and a revenue-generating asset from which the city can transfer money to pay for basic services like public safety, libraries and park maintenance.

Now, that long and at times controversial practice is facing a legal challenge. Downtown resident Miriam Green has filed a lawsuit against the city, charging that the transfer amounts to an illegal tax. At the same time, the state Supreme Court is preparing to hear an argument over a similar case in Redding, where an appeals court has recently struck down by a 2-1 vote the city’s transfer policy.

Rising costs strain Palo Alto’s infrastructure goals

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / November 28, 2017

City Council moves ahead with new fire station and bike bridge, despite major questions about latest cost estimates

Palo Alto’s ambitious plan to fix up the city’s aged infrastructure and build a new bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 is being strained by a sizzling construction market, which is adding millions of dollars to the price of each project and forcing local officials to lower their expectations.

Despite the obstacle, two priority projects on the city’s infrastructure list moved forward Monday night, when the council voted to approve the construction contract to rebuild the 1948 fire station near Rinconada Park and to approve the environmental analysis for the new bike bridge at Adobe Creek.

In each case, council members voiced significant reservations about the cost increases. The budget for the fire station has gone up from $6.7 million, the amount in the city’s 2014 Infrastructure Plan, to about $8.6 million (or $9.5 million, if you factor in the cost of staff salary and benefits).

‘Behind the Headlines’: Palo Alto’s pension problem

Palo Alto Weekly – by Palo Alto Weekly staff / October 13, 2017

Transcript of City Councilman Eric Filseth’s conversation with Weekly journalists

Ever wonder what the real deal is with Palo Alto’s unfunded pension and retiree medical liabilities (from $550 million to maybe even $1 billion)? How is the city going to pay for it?

This interview with City Council Finance Committee Chair Eric Filseth breaks down the problem in a refreshingly clear way. Hear his conversation with Palo Alto Weekly Editor Jocelyn Dong and city hall reporter Gennady Sheyner in this “Behind the Headlines” podcast, or click on the headline to read the transcription.

Fire Department to cut positions as it deals with falling revenue

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / October 9, 2017

With reimbursement from Stanford decreasing, Palo Alto seeks leaner service model

The Palo Alto Fire Department plans to eliminate 11 positions — roughly 10 percent of its workforce — to deal with falling revenues from its contract with Stanford University.

The staffing reduction, which the City Council is set to approve on Oct. 16, would eliminate seven firefighter positions and four apparatus-operator positions. Fire Chief Eric Nickel said the change is expected to save about $1.5 million annually, while maintaining service levels that will allow the department to meet its performance standards.

Police offer signing bonuses of up to $25,000 to attract new officers

Palo Alto Daily Post – by Allison Levitsky / September 13, 2017

Palo Alto police are 12 officers short of the 92 they’re budgeted for, so the department is offering up to $25,000 bonuses for new hires, police said yesterday.

It’s the first time the department has offered hiring bonuses in almost a decade, Lt. James Reifschneider told the Post. The department has had between eight and 12 vacancies for most of the last year.

New budget signals city’s shift on transportation

Palo Alto Weekly – by Gennady Sheyner / June 27, 2017

City Council supports sharp hikes to parking rates, more investment in car-less alternatives

Palo Alto fired a salvo Tuesday night in its war against traffic congestion when it approved a budget that dramatically increases the cost of parking in downtown and around California Avenue and invests nearly $500,000 in a new nonprofit charged with shifting drivers to other modes of transportation.

A City’s Moral Impetus

Palo Alto Matters – Guest Commentary by Greer Stone / June 25, 2017

Santa Clara County Human Relations Commissioner, Chairman of the Santa Clara County Justice Review Committee, and former Chair of Palo Alto’s Human Relations Commission

In 2003 the world was a different place. A gallon of gas cost $1.79, a dozen eggs would run you $1.24, and the average price of a home in Palo Alto cost $1,179,000. The world had never heard of Barack Obama, and Donald Trump had not even begun his reality show, let alone his career in politics. Yes, much has changed, but unfortunately, the funding provided by the City of Palo Alto to help the most vulnerable members of our community has not.