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City Withholding Details of Proposed $1.3 million PAFD Service Cuts; Budget Vote, Tuesday

Original post made by Fred Balin, College Terrace, on Jun 24, 2017

The proposed Palo Alto city budget, coming before the city council this Tuesday (6/23, 5:30 p.m), calls for a $1.3 million "budget adjustment" in “fire services deployment changes” without any detail on how these service cuts would be implemented, neither in the written budget nor at last month’s finance committee meetings.

My calculations indicate that this service reduction, if it were applied to a single fire engine with typical, round-the-clock, 3-person crew, would take an engine out of service from one of the six fire stations “in the flats” for the entire fiscal year, which starts on July 1.

There are other possible re-deployment scenarios, but each will most certainly require a significant reduction in either the availability of apparatus (i.e., fire engines, ladder truck, ambulances), and/or the number of personnel staffed on the apparatus.

This proposed reduction in fire services is part of a large, complex, and varied action item and public hearing on the fiscal year 2018 operating and capital improvement budgets; municipal fee schedule; gas and wastewater collection financial plans; and various rate and salary schedules, and permit fees.

Time is short, and I am asking for your help now.

It is imperative that (1) the city inform the public how the proposed fire department service cuts will be implemented or, if still undecided, the specific options under consideration, and (2) that the public have sufficient time to react. No.1 has yet to surface, and time is quickly running out on No. 2 .

Last year, the proposed budget and subsequent public discussions made no mention of the planned elimination of daytime, fire-season, wild-fire engine staffing at the city’s fire station in Foothills Parks. Operations there essentially ceased, for the first summer in 30 years, a few weeks after budget adoption.

We cannot allow this completely un-transparent kind of process to happen again in an area related to public safety. This time the proposed service reduction would be much greater than last year’s, as well as compounded on top of it.

Last Monday, for the third week in a row, I spoke on this matter in front of the council in two minutes at oral communications. Afterward, and in response, City Manager Keene stated that city is not concealing any information, but as of this writing (Sat, am, 6/24), no new information has been released.

Please send a short email to the city council (, the city manager (, and the fire chief (eric.nickel@cityofpaloalto.og) stating that is very important to you and the community that the proposed service cuts be released immediately.

Why has this crucial information been withheld to this point?

The city manager stated last Monday that the city has been in “meet-and-confer” discussions with the firefighter's union. Meet-and-confer is a California labor law requirement if working conditions are to change, but it cannot in good conscience be employed as an excuse by either the city or the union to hide vital information related to a public discussion on the budget.

Another explanation is that city does not want people to know, before budget approval, the nature of the reductions in service. Sorry, but that cannot be allow to cut it. Disclosure of relevant information, citizen review and comment, and careful, informed deliberation in public hearings is at the heart of what we value and always most be vigilant to protect in Palo Alto civic matters. Help stop its curtailment here and now.

Kindly send a short, respectful email to the city council (, City Manager James Keene ( and Fire Chief Eric Nickel (eric.nickel@cityofpaloalto.og) and let them know what you think.

Later this weekend, I will send out a separate email on current fire department deployment services and staffing, and in the absence of new information from the city, more information on potential scenarios to implement the proposed $1.3 million reduction in deployment services.

Comments (2)

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 24, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Didn't the city just approve $16,000,000 to build 2 new fire stations?? (Oct 2016) Do these cuts have anything to do with the construction budgets?

Web Link

"The Rinconada fire station, known as Station 3, is the first of two that the city is planning to replace in the next few years. According to Palo Alto's capital budget, the project is set to be completed in spring 2018 and cost about $7.2 million. Once completed, the city looks to shift its focus on replacing the Mitchell Park station, a project that has a $7.9 million price tag and is set to be completed in spring 2021."

Posted by Fred Balin
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 24, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Fred Balin is a registered user.


Both Fire Station replacement are in the Fiscal Year 2018 Capital Budget. The $1.3 million reduction in deployment services in stated in the Operating Budget. Both budgets come to the council on Tuesday (the 27th! not the the 23rd as I wrote above).

A new informational report released from the city for Tuesday's meeting states that the Riconada Fire Station 3 rebuild, is "anticipated to start in November 2017 and be complete in early 2019"
Web Link

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