Menlo Park's Future


An Impending Problem # 2

Dear Menlo Park,

The first email (summarized below) discusses how employee costs have already risen.

Today I discuss their projected rise from $21.5 million in 2006 to a projected $40.8 million in 2017—including 3 new recent hires. Also projected are $1 million plus deficits each year.

We have read and appreciate all the thoughtful responses you sent to the first newsletter. Many of you have asked about the exact salary and benefits numbers of our city's employees.  This is public information which you can request by calling the Menlo Park Personnel Offices at 330-6670 or going to Menlo Park Direct Connect

You will probably confirm what one of our two non-safety unions has on its website:

Government workers earn higher average wages and get better benefits than people in the private sector, according to bureau statistics. Even white-collar workers -- managers and professionals -- earn more on average than their counterparts in private industry.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics details how superior government benefits are to those in the private sector. Private companies contributed an average of 90 cents to a worker's pension plans for every hour worked in 2005. By comparison, state and local governments contributed $2.48 for every hour an employee worked. --"Pension funds fall short of guarantees," USA Today, Jan 17, 2005

The questions though are at what costs are these wages and benefits maintained? What services and infrastructure projects can we not afford?  What alternatives do we have?

Please, keep your questions and comments coming to


P.S. Mickie has been appointed to a non-political post and even though these emails will not be political, she does not feel it appropriate to participate in them. :-(

EMAIL 1: An Impending Problem 1, A Synopsis
The issue of making our city fiscally sustainable needs to be seriously addressed as the City embarks upon the new 2008-09 budget cycle.
What alarms us is the speed and magnitude of our city’s rising employee costs. For example, between 2001 and 2006 the number of Menlo Park employees dropped by 13% (from 260 to 230), but personnel costs for that same time span increased by about 27% (from $16.9million to $21.5 million).

We fear that if Menlo Park continues to increase the salaries and life-long defined benefits of existing employees, and continues to add new employees, our city could fall off a fiscal cliff, just as our state is doing now.

We focus on the employee cost issue because, not because we think our employees are doing bad job , but because about 72% of the city’s budget (and 80% of the City’s actual expenditures if you include special funds ) are employee related.