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Forecast predicts years of budget surpluses

Original post made on Feb 14, 2014

A surging economy and an expected influx of revenue from new hotels have prompted Palo Alto officials to predict a decade of budget surpluses, provided things like labor negotiations and another economic downturn don't get in the way, according to a financial forecast the city released Wednesday.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 14, 2014, 9:55 AM

Comments (20)

Posted by CVarol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on Feb 14, 2014 at 10:41 am

Surplus is great! Now let's put it safely away to attempt to cover the pension shortfalls looming in our future.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:38 am

So why do they want to increase our taxes to pay for a police building and infrastructure?

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 14, 2014 at 11:47 am

Always easier to raise taxes when times are good.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Are the projections for hotel tax revenue based on the current TOT or the increased TOT that CC may put to the voters? And if we're so flush, why pursue that?

Who is auditing Palo Alto's books these days? I believe there was a long time auditor who left but I don't think she's been replaced. Can someone confirm or correct? I doubt the resource-gobbling pension issue has gone away so we really should be informed as to what percentage of the forecast surplus will be absorbed by that; the number is sure to be high. Where can one get a current report about that? I'd like more data so that I can cast an informed vote at the next election.

In the meanwhile, it's probably good fiscal policy to not spend money that is not real.

Posted by Budget watcher.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:27 pm

This report does not cover the part of the conversation where they talked about the probability of future recession. It makes the picture sound rosy and staff deliriously optimistic. In fact, that is NOT the situation and discussions that I have followed in these budget forums have been far less optimistic than this report indicates.

Budget planning has been pretty conservative. An increased TOT is being discussed, and that is part of the equation that is being considered.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:29 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The revenue forecast does include revenue from the new hotels.

Last year and this year surplus revenues are transferred to a fund to pay for infrastructure.

Existing revenues can support some infrastructure investments, for example, the public safety building.

The proposed tax is to extend the amount of infrastructure projects that can be completed in the near future.

Yes, future retirement obligations and other expenses need to be factored into spending plans and surplus projections as the City Manager said.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Feb 14, 2014 at 12:32 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Staff has been fairly and appropriately conservative in recent revenue forecasts which is one reason the city has seen surpluses recently.

The staff did consider a recession but these are ten year projections that include the possibility of higher or lower individual years.

Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2014 at 2:02 pm

I have a long list of streets north of the Oregon Expressway that are a hazard to health and safety - of people and autos. Some streets badly damaged in the '98 flood haven't been touched.But there's enough money to grossly deface our streets with traffic markings that can probably been seen by our astronauts from outer space!! Garish and a pox on the neighborhoods. How about fixing up what we have instead of new projects: fix the boardwalk into the Baylands before someone falls into the Bay; fix the roads in the Baylands. Fix High Street - PLEASE. Pay for what has been done. Stop hiring more employees. More efficiently use employees. How can the city 'estimate' utility usage by claiming it doesn't have enough meter readers. Oh, YES, it does. The problem is inefficient scheduling. I"ll pay for what I use -not what the city THINKS I use. Next time I'll fight this big time.I"ll bet Keene's home meter isn't 'estimated'.

Posted by Richard C. Placone
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2014 at 2:16 pm

I don't suppose anyone on the Utilities Commission, the Utility Department staff, the city manager's office, the Planning Department staff, and certainly not not the council members, have given a thought to lowering the utility rates so that us seniors who are not in the 10% and above income brackets can continue to afford to live here.

Posted by bick
a resident of University South
on Feb 14, 2014 at 4:03 pm

For your reference on salaries and pensions of city public employees:

Web Link

Posted by OldAlum
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 14, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Oh please. This projection is just an excuse for our gov to spend more money they don't have on things we don't want/need. Spare us.

Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2014 at 6:39 pm

"there's enough money to grossly deface our streets with street markings"

The sign clutter and heavily-marked crosswalks are spreading all over the City. Some residential areas are being substantially degraded. And from a safety standpoint,studies in San Diego found that heavily marked crosswalks proved in fact to be statistically more dangerous because the pedestrian assumes it is safer and pays less attention to what is going on. Also consistency in crosswalk markings along a corridor or in a neighborhood is safer. When you have a heavily-marked intersection the others are in effect downgraded and the driver is likely to pay less attention to them.

Posted by Domadiful
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2014 at 7:39 pm

Great! Maybe now they can hire a competent urban planner and get rid of Jaime.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2014 at 11:46 am

Steven Levy,

The long range forecast does not include any recession for the next 10 years. The last recession was in 2009, so that would make at least a 14 year period without decreasing revenue for the city.

I don't recall a period that long where there has not been a recession, or where the city did not have at least one down year in revenues in a 10 year time range.

Can anyone?

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Feb 15, 2014 at 12:22 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The forecast does not forecast the timing of a recession in the sense that revenues go up or down dramatically in any specific year..

But the long range forecast does assume that the next ten years will have a mixture of revenue growth years.

It is a ten year average annual growth rate.

If staff wants to anticipate a specific good or bad year, they would do so in the current budget forecast,

Posted by Marcos
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2014 at 2:06 pm

This is awesome, now we can give city employees a sizable raise and increase their pension benefits, why waste this surplus on infrastructure and other city services.

Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Feb 15, 2014 at 2:14 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Well Marcus too bad you won't get your sarcastic wish,. The proposed budget allocates the extra revenue to infrastructure.

Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2014 at 3:43 pm

You have to put an asterisk next to any forecast- *Drought impact unknown.

Posted by observer
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 15, 2014 at 7:29 pm

Sadly, I expect as many new idiotic 'new' initiatives from City 'Staff' to squander any surplus that may develop. I also predict that all those boring infrastructure projects that the same 'staff' and city council have been wondering how to pay for will be forgotten until budget deficits return. Once deficits return, it's safe to complain about them because there is no money to pay for them.

Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 16, 2014 at 12:28 pm

And should this projection play out, then I see no reason why our public safety building and other vital infrastructure needs could not be funded through the existing budget. Our residents should not hear even a hint of a bond measure and tax hike.

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