Thu11272014

News

VTA plans for  El Camino Real prompt skepticism

VTA plans for El Camino Real prompt skepticism


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Valley Transit Authority proposal to convert general-use right lanes on El Camino Real to bus-only use received a chilly reception last week.

A Valley Transit Authority proposal that prioritizes public transit alo...

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Schools

MVHS students attempt Guinness World Record

MVHS students attempt Guinness World Record


Barry Tonge/Special to the Town Crier
Local residents participate in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for making the most friendship braceletsNov. 9 at Mountain View High.

More than 300 Mountain View High School students gathered around...

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Community

Bigger, better days ahead for Foothill Veterans Resource Center

Bigger, better days ahead for Foothill Veterans Resource Center


Student veterans at Foothill College can seek support, access resources and socialize at the Veterans Resource Center.
Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

Carmela Xuereb sees bigger things in store for the Foothill College Veterans Resource Center. One...

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Comment

Serving those who served us: Editorial

“Thank you for your service” often comes across as lip service to our veterans. As always, actions speak louder than words.

The Rotary Club of Los Altos has taken plenty of action, contributing time and money to improve opportunities for veterans th...

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Business

Report: Los Altos homes priciest in U.S.

Report: Los Altos homes priciest in U.S.


ToWn Crier File Photo
The average cost of a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Los Altos is 30 times more than the price of a similar home in Cleveland, according to a Coldwell Banker report.

The average cost of one Silicon Valley home can purchase ...

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Books

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree

Children's author signs books at Linden Tree


Author Tiffany Papageorge is scheduled to sign copies of new her book 11 a.m. Dec. 6 at Linden Tree Books, 265 State St., Los Altos.

Papageorge’s “My Yellow Balloon” (Minoan Moon, 2014) is a Mom’s Choice “Gold” winner. In the book, the Los Gat...

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People

RICHARD CAMPBELL WAUGH

RICHARD CAMPBELL WAUGH

Richard Campbell Waugh of Los Altos Hills, Ca. died at home October 31, 2014 surrounded by his family and caregivers.

Dick was born 1917, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He earned a BS in chemistry from University of Arkansas and a PhD in organic chemi...

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Travel

Weekday Wanderlust highlights the joys of armchair travel

Weekday Wanderlust highlights the joys of armchair travel


Dan Prothero/Special to the Town Crier
Travel writers at the October gathering of the Weekday Wanderlust group include, from left, James Nestor, Kimberley Lovato, Paul Rauber, Marcia DeSanctis and Lavinia Spalding.

Travel writing should either ̶...

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Stepping Out

Pacific Ballet's 'Nutcracker' opens Friday in downtown Mtn. View

The Pacific Ballet Academy is back with its 24th annual production of “The Nutcracker,” scheduled this weekend in downtown Mountain View.

The story follows young Clara as she falls into a dream where her beloved nutcracker becomes the daring prince ...

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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Uncertainty over pensions, other costs drives lean city budget

The Los Altos City Council last week unanimously adopted a new city financial plan that warns of uncertainty ahead regarding public employee pensions and rising health-care costs.

The council’s 5-0 vote June 25 approved a balanced city budget for 2013-2015 that anticipates a modest 1.79 percent revenue increase in 2013-2014 and a five-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) that calls for approximately $4.1 million in capital projects for the coming year. Highlighted in the plan is the achievement of a 20 percent general-fund reserve ($6.1 million) one year ahead of schedule, which Los Altos Finance Director Russ Morreale termed “a rainy-day fund.”

Containing costs

Morreale told the Town Crier that uncertainty surrounding California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) costs in 2015-2016 was “a big driver” in the city’s decision to remain in “cost-containment mode” for the near future.

“It continues to make us lean,” he said. “We have to do more with less.”

A budget message in the city’s financial plan warned of potential “double-digit (rate) increases over the next 10 years” despite the city’s implementation of a second-tier retirement benefit system that requires greater employee contributions. The State Pension Reform Act of 2013 also implemented a third retirement tier for some public employees.

Morreale pointed to the establishment of a new CalPERS reserve fund with an anticipated $600,000 balance at the end of the two-year budget cycle to “counterbalance” anticipated pension rate hikes in the near future.

“We expect a bigger bill from PERS and built that into our forecast. … This reserve will help mitigate those increases,” he said.

Other cost-containment steps include the deferment of an additional five city staff positions – bringing the city’s total number of position deferrals to 12, according to the financial plan, which would likely cause an impact on services. Morreale also noted the deferment of new equipment purchases, with the exception of core needs related to public safety.

Morreale listed additional challenges for the city down the road, including increased health-care costs, potential increases in fire services after the contract with the county expires in 2016 and the costs of maintaining aging civic center facilities. The $4.1 million in projects listed in the 2013-2014 CIP includes a $200,000 study “to look at the most immediate civic center needs,” according to Morreale, as well as $175,000 earmarked for “general” facility repairs in the coming fiscal year.

“The reality is most, if not all, of our civic center buildings are old and in need of repairs,” he said, adding that the budget includes an additional $100,000 for facility repairs in 2014-2015.

The city has earmarked approximately $1.8 million in sewer funds for wastewater systems/sewer repair and maintenance in 2013-2014, with more than $500,000 in CIP funds allocated for street resurfacing and repair.

Positive signs

Despite leaner times, Morreale’s report calls for optimism on some fronts, including development fee revenues such as $2.7 million for the final installment of the First and Main streets property sale, $4.3 million in park in-lieu fees as a result of ongoing developments downtown and along El Camino Real and San Antonio Road. The financial plan outlines anticipated property-tax increases of 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in the coming two years.

“We’re starting to see some movement there, which is a positive sign,” he said.

Property taxes continue to make up the bulk of general-fund revenues at 65 percent, followed by sales taxes and users tax dollars at 12 percent each.

Los Altos city budget highlights

• Projects 1.79 percent revenue increase in 2013-2014.

• Earmarks $4.1 million in capital improvements in 2013-2014, including sewer maintenance and repair and road paving and repair.

• Achieves 20 percent general-fund reserve balance ($6.1 million).

• Defers five city staff positions as a “cost containment” measure.

• Establishes CalPERS reserve fund for anticipated rate increases for public employee retirements.

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