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.

Oct 18

That's A Wrap! - October 17, 2018

Posted on October 18, 2018 at 1:38 PM by grodericks grodericks

Thats A Wrap Logo

Council Meeting Date: October 17, 2018
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 their Regular City Council Meeting on Wednesday, October 17 beginning at 7 pm with Open Session. 

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the Council moved to Presentations. The Police Chief presented Mayoral Proclamations to the Atherton Disaster and Preparedness Team (ADAPT) and former Police Sergeant Sherman Hall. Following the proclamations, the Chief introduced the Town's newest Sergeant, Sergeant David Gomez and then introduced the community to the Town's 2-member K-9 Unit.

The presentation scheduled by CalWater was postponed to the November 14 City Council Meeting.

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 16. Item No. 12 on the Consent Agenda was removed from the Agenda entirely and will be returned to the Council for consideration at a future date if needed. 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 bills, minutes, authorization of a Scope of Work for Tetra Tech for 20% Design of a Water Capture Project at Cartan Field, authorization for MIG to move forward with environmental review of a Water Capture Project at Cartan Field, adoption of an update to the Ordinance regulating Holbrook-Palmer Park, authorization to release a Request for Proposal for a Green Infrastructure Plan, award of contract for resurfacing of tennis courts, and authorization to advertise for bids for janitorial services. The Council approved the Consent Agenda, as presented, with the exception of Item No. 12.  

Following the Consent Agenda, the Council took up the Regular Agenda. Item No. 17 was a review and approval of an E-Citation Solution for the Police Department. Following the staff report and public comment, the Council discussed issues related to the proposed technology - life span, efficiencies, records management, warranty, use by code enforcement, officer safety, customization, other clients, document retention requirements, replacement cost, and any downsides to use of the new technology. Following discussion, the Council authorized staff to move forward with 3 E-Citation units. 

Item No. 18 was an Award of Contract to Central Valley Environmental for demolition and abatement of the Town's Library Building and approval of a Task Order for Interwest related to the Civic Center Project. Following discussion and public comment, the Council discussed issues related to the engineering estimate for the project, construction/demolition bids, market timing, tiles on the old building, and next steps. Following discussion, the Council awarded the contract for demolition and authorized the scope of work for Interwest to proceed. 

Item No. 19 was the last item on the Agenda, Introduction of an Ordinance Amending the Contract between the Town and CalPERS for Employee Pickup of a share of the Employer Pension Obligation. Staff gave a brief staff report for the item and answered questions related to the various pension plans and employee organizations at the Town as well as the requirements and maximums under the law for employee and employer contributions. Following public comment, the Council discussed issues related to pursuit of local legislators for consideration of expansion of the ability of employee groups to contribute more toward the employer share of the pension obligation. Following discussion, the Council . Following the staff report and public comment, the Council approved the Ordinance for adoption. 

Following Council Reports and Final Public Comments, having cleared the entire Agenda, at approximately 8:07 pm, that as they say - was a wrap!



The next meeting of the City Council will be the Regular Meeting of November 14. This will be a Special Meeting as it is rescheduled from its original date of November 21. Tentative items for the Agenda include a presentation/report by CalWater, a presentation/report by the Library, a presentation/report from ADAPT, committee appointments, and discussion/update on the Town's Refuse Franchise Agreement negotiations. 

GeorgeR6824xThanks for reading!

George Rodericks
City Manager

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




#AthertonTalks
#AthertonCivicCenter

Sep 20

That's A Wrap! - September 19, 2018

Posted on September 20, 2018 at 10:03 AM by grodericks grodericks

Thats A Wrap Logo

Council Meeting Date: September 19, 2018
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 their Regular City Council Meeting on Wednesday, September 19 beginning at 7 pm.

At 7 pm, the Council convened in Open Session for the Regular Meeting. 

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the Council moved to Presentations. The Mayor and Council presented a Proclamation to Barbara Wood in recognition of her service as a journalist covering the Town of Atherton for the Almanac News and congratulating her on her upcoming retirement. The Council also heard a presentation from Atherton Fiber/Paxio on the status of their fiber network deployment throughout Town. Following presentations, the Council moved to Public Comment where there were two speakers commenting on the current status of Surf Air. Later in the Agenda, the Mayor advised that he would be sending a letter to the County on behalf of the Town asking that they take efforts to prevent the return of Surf Air to San Carlos Airport. 

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 18. 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 bills, minutes, Treasurer's Report, 2nd Reading and Adoption of a Development Agreement Ordinance, Acceptance of Work for various Town projects, adoption of a Resolution establishing speed limits and authorization of a Request for Proposal for Environmental Work in support of a Water Capture Project at Cartan Field.

Following the Consent Agenda, the Council took up the first of four (4) Public Hearings. Item No. 19 was an Appeal of a Notice and Order Issued for 370 Walsh Road. The Council opened the Public Hearing and took comments from the appellant (property owner) and other public comment. Following the Public Hearing, the Council discussed issues related to the current condition of the property, the enforcement process, plans for the property by the property owner, concerns of the neighbors, remedies, fines, and next steps. Following discussion, the Council denied the Appeal and directed the property owner to work with Town staff over the next 30 days to bring the property into compliance. 

Item No. 20 was a Public Hearing to introduce an Ordinance amending Chapter 12.24 of the Atherton Municipal Code related to Holbrook Palmer Park. Staff gave a brief presentation noting that the proposed ordinance amended sections of the Code related to the Park in order to bring those sections into alignment with other current law. A suggested amendment was related to Section 12.24.055, Animals to ensure that approved Facility Rental Agreements were taken into consideration. Following the staff report and public comment, the Council discussed the amendments and whether or not to consider a future discussion of an off leash area. It was noted that the Park & Recreation Committee would be reviewing the possibility of an off leash area in the near future. Following discussion, the Council introduced the Ordinance, as amended. 

Item No. 21 was a Public Hearing for 2nd Reading and Adoption of an Ordinance related to False Alarm Systems and Adoption of a related Fee Resolution. Following the brief staff report and public comment, the Council briefly discussed issues related to processing of renewals. Following discussion, the Council adopted the Ordinance and Resolution.
 
Next up was the final Public Hearing, Item No. 22, a Fee Resolution Amending Fees and Charges Related to Rental of the Pavilion in Holbrook Palmer Park. Following a brief staff report and public comment, the Council discussed issues related to the various rental periods, comparatives to other rental venues, and the Administrative Fees charged by the Town. Following discussion, the Council adopted the Fee Resolution. 

Next was the Regular Agenda, Item No. 23 was Review and Discussion of the Civic Center Project and approval of a Scope of Work from the Project Architect for the City Hall/Police Department Building Value Engineering. Following the staff report and public comment, the Council discussed issues related to the clay tile roof value engineering option, the future installation of photovoltaic panels, project funding, and the Council Chambers. Following discussion, the Council amended the scope for the roofing to place asphalt shingle wherever there were planned photovoltaic panels and clay tile in the remainder and directed that staff move the Council Chambers to an Additive Alternate as opposed to being a part of the base bid. With these changes to the value engineering options, the Council authorized the Scope of Work for the Project Architect.  

Item No. 24 was the Adoption of a Tree Inspection and Risk Management Policy for Town-owned or Town-maintained Trees and Direction on the Continued Maintenance of Trees on Middlefield Road and the possibility of Maintenance of Trees on Marsh Road. Following a staff report and public comment, the Council discussed issues related to tree maintenance budget, types of trees, the tree inventory, current maintenance standards, rationale for the policy, Town risk, and complaint response. Following discussion, the Council adopted the Policy and directed that staff continue to maintain the trees along Middlefield Road but continue to require property owner maintenance of the trees along Marsh Road. 

Next the Council moved on to the Staff Reports on Responses to the San Mateo County Grand Jury. Items 25 through 28 were required responses to four (4) Grand Jury Reports to Cities, Towns, and Jurisdictions in San Mateo County on various issues. For each Report, the Council heard a brief overview of the issue, reviewed the response letter, took any public comment and ultimately approved the response letters as written. There were no public comments. 

Item No. 25 was a Response Letter to the Grand Jury Report Regarding Deployment of Narcan by Police Officers

Item No. 26 was a Response Letter to the Grand Jury Report Regarding Smoke-Free Multi-Unit Housing.

Item No. 27 was a Response Letter to the Grand Jury Report Regarding Cooperative Purchasing

Item No. 28 was a Response Letter to the Grand Jury Report Regarding Pension Obligations

Item No. 29 was the last item on the Agenda, Introduction of an Ordinance Amending the Contract between the Town and CalPERS for Employee Pickup of a share of the Employer Pension Obligation. Staff gave a brief staff report. Following the staff report and public comment, the Council Introduced the Ordinance for adoption. 

Following Council Reports and Final Public Comments, having cleared the entire Agenda, at approximately 10:10 pm, that as they say - was a wrap!



The next meeting of the City Council will be a Study Session on October 3. Tentative items for the Agenda include a presentation of options for Power Purchase Agreements and a presentation on options for funding related to the Atherton Channel District.  

GeorgeR6824xThanks for reading!

George Rodericks
City Manager

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




#AthertonTalks
#AthertonCivicCenter

Aug 08

Financial Health of Local Governments

Posted on August 8, 2018 at 4:16 PM by grodericks grodericks

Local Government Finance

Fiscal PortalThis blog post was adapted from a Governing Magazine article on "How to Measure Financial Health - a Guide to Financial Literacy." After reading the article, I thought it would be an interesting article to share adding Atherton's information. Atherton has a very dependable financial outlook.

Building ReportOver time, I hope to expand the tools available to residents to "drill down" on our financial picture via our Fiscal Transparency Portal and Data Reports (part of every City Manager's Report during City Council meetings). 

As an engaged citizen, you certainly do not need to be an expert on your local government's finances. Local government finance can also differ significantly from private sector finance - often seeming to follow an entirely different set of rules. What is helpful though, is to have an informed and educated perspective so that you can speak confidently about the financial health of your local government. If we can answer any questions you may have, please do not hesitate to contact us!

questionThe simple question of financial health raises many areas of query:
  • Did all the anticipated revenues come in for the year? 
  • Were the expenditure expectations on target or were they exceeded? 
  • Were "restricted funds" used properly? 
  • What about the future? Are there revenues in play to meet expenditure expectations? 
  • What about large infrastructure needs? 
  • What about reserves? 
  • What about unanticipated expenses? 
  • What about long-term debt? Pensions? Healthcare?
True, you can get a lot of this information from financial statements, but that's only part of the picture. The financial health of a local government is more than a balanced budget and a financial statement - it's also about context and the future. Atherton is no exception to this perspective.

Local governments are "financially healthy" if they can deliver the services that their residents expect with the resources their residents provide, now and in the future. Basically - do we have the ability to deliver the services our residents want with the resources they provide? For Atherton, the answer is yes. But, this is different than the private sector measure of financial health typically centered around profitability. Our residents expect us to deliver the services they desire now and for years to come. That's a long time and things change over time.

control weatherFirst, what our residents want today may be different than what they want tomorrow. For example, when I first started in local government in the late 80's it was not the mandate of local government to reduce waste from landfills or recycle. Now it is. A more recent mandate requires local government to address climate change in its programs and services delivered. These programs and services were largely left to state and federal agencies in the past - now they rest at the local level. Second, financial health can be measured in different ways depending on your definition of what constitutes the "future." If government pushes its funding horizon on any debt service out 20 or more years, the short-term financial picture looks pretty healthy. But, if local government spends all of its money today on our infrastructure, we weaken the short-term financial health but have better long-term health. What is the definition of future?  Lastly, we don't control the weather or the unexpected. Federal, state, and regional policy and rule-making has an economic impact - regulatory mandates, disasters, recessions all impact financial outlook and demands. But while we don't control them - we are expected to anticipate and plan for them. 

There are three components to financial health - Financial Position, Financial Performance, and Solvency. The first, Financial Position, is our ability to pay our bills as they come due. For local government, a good financial position is strong if we have plenty of cash and other liquid resources available. That seems obvious. The test is whether our general revenues provide sufficient resources to meet our debt, our general obligations as well as long-term obligations and liabilities. For Atherton, we do not have to borrow money or delay payments or even liquidate assets to meet our general obligations. We are even prepared for emergency infrastructure repairs with a healthy reserve policy and fund. The Town has a 35% Reserve Policy based on annual operational expenditures. This is broken down into a 15% Emergency Reserve for those unforeseen events and a 20% Operational or Budget Reserve. Together, these represent a $4.93 million set aside beyond our basic $14 million operational budget. Atherton is good shape here. 

The second, Financial Performance, is how well our "typical" revenues cover our "typical" expenses. In the private sector, this would represent our "profitability." But, for local government, it's a little more complex. Local government revenue should generate enough to cover most or all of a government's costs. In many cases, this is relatively easy to do, such as with a public utility or entry fees into a state park. But, for many local government services, residents do not expect to get a bill when using the service - such as when they call the police or stroll through the Park or call the Building or Planning Department with a general question. These are important basic services that the public believes are part of their basic taxes. For Atherton, our basic typical revenues (we call it our General Fund) consists of property taxes, sales taxes, franchise fees, business license taxes, permit fees, and facility rental fees. These total between $15 million and $17 million a year - it fluctuates based on some of the State's allocations - largely ERAF which can go from $1.2 million to $0 in any given year. As a result, we rely on about $15 million in stable, typical revenues. On the expenditure side, basic operational expenditures are about $14 million. This includes basic police services, administration, building, planning, public works, finance, and city attorney. Basic operational expenses do not include large capital projects such as drainage projects, road maintenance, park facilities, city facilities, and more - and that's the downside. We are in good shape here in Atherton with a healthy gap between operational revenues and operational expenditures; but, capital infrastructure is another matter altogether.

solvencyThe last component of financial health is Solvency. There are three types of solvency measures in local government - cash solvency, service-level solvency and long-term solvency. For cash solvency, the basic measure is whether we have enough cash on hand to cover short-term expenses that might come in the next 60-90 days. With our healthy reserve policy, we have that covered - a lot better than most small agencies. Service-level solvency is whether we have the capacity to continue to deliver basic services in the face of major changes in our economic and political circumstance. For example, if we lost a major employer or industry. Since we are 99% residential, this is highly unlikely without some dramatic shift in how property taxes are collected and paid. However, it's important to note that local government still needs to be nimble enough to adapt should something like that occur - prepared to engage in a public-private partnership, cross-jurisdictional service delivery model or other alternative service delivery arrangements. Lastly is long-term solvency. This is our ability to generate the revenues needed to cover long-term spending needs. Assuming there are no changes to our tax base or other revenues, can we cover the debt service on any outstanding debt, our obligation to pensions and healthcare, and our infrastructure needs? The short answer is yes, but with a caveat - for long-term infrastructure, we have save for it. We do not have any debt service for capital infrastructure and because our revenues over expenditures are only about $1 million /- each year (without counting ERAF), it takes us a while to save up for those bigger projects and that has an impact. 

Strong financial performance means we more than likely will end the year with a surplus - every year. That surplus becomes cash, that in turn improves our financial position, which in turn allows us to borrow money at a lower interest rate to finance routine infrastructure maintenance (if we borrowed money), which in turn improves our long-term solvency. However, while not failing the solvency measures, some local governments are strong in one component and weak in others - that's us. For us, it's long-term solvency. Small cities often have robust financial positions where we hold cash and other liquid assets equal to more than year of our annual spending. At the same time, we have large unfunded infrastructure needs that are a major drag on our long-term financial position. This is the "save-spend" cycle. This happens to small cities because voters are typically sensitive to taxes. If local property values increase, we collect more property taxes. Absolutely true, but not at a significant enough rate to keep pace with the cost and magnitude of infrastructure improvements. At the same time, taxpayers oppose new taxes or increases to existing taxes to fund new programs or infrastructure. As a result, small cities are forced into the "save-spend" cycle; but with the construction climate continuing to escalate, they cannot "save up" enough to pay for infrastructure projects with cash, so those spending needs go unmet while, ironically, more cash goes into the bank. The carrot is always just out of reach. Right now, our FY 2018/19 projected unallocated reserves exceeds the required $4.93 million set aside by another $13 million. This is indicative of the "save-spend" scenario that small cities are put in to saving for large capital infrastructure.  
  
The challenges are different for every government - which is why context matters and it is crucial to think of your local government's fiscal health in relation to all factors and compare similar economic, political and demographic characteristics. Flexibility is a big part of financial health. If financial circumstances change, it helps to have the latitude to raise taxes, trim spending on programs and services, or take other corrective actions. Atherton has done some of that in the past. But, many local governments simply do not have that latitude. Their fiscal policy spaces are constrained by state and federal law, local service demand, and the local political climate. 

Thanks for reading! I am looking forward to revamping the Town's Financial Health Indicators and Resources for our residents and hope to release that in the coming months. 

George Rodericks
City Manager
Town of Atherton
grodericks@ci.atherton.ca.us