Menlo Park's Future

 

A Tale of Two Cities

Fellow Residents:

There is a City in Silicon Valley with a population of around 30,000.  It has is a City-manager type government with an elected five-member City council.  It has a very highly educated population with multiple school districts in its city limits.  Its Vision Statement reads:

Our city is a Community

“Where the common good prevails; where the orientation is toward family; where local commerce provides a vibrant presence; where homes and neighborhoods are safe and peaceful; where government is inclusive and values community involvement; where desirable recreational and leisure opportunities are provided; where quality education is provided and valued; where government provides high quality, basic services in a cost effective manner; where a small town, picturesque, residential atmosphere is retained; where leadership reflects community goals…”

If you think this city is Menlo Park, you are wrong.  It is Saratoga.  Like Menlo Park, Saratoga is a full-service community with a vibrant library, recreation department, administration services, building department, public works department and finance departmentIn 2005, Saratoga was named by Money Magazine as the 26th best place in the USA to live.

Yet, with all the similarities there are some glaring differences.

·         Saratoga’s 08/09 General Fund budget: $17,084,596; Menlo Park’s 08/09 budget: $38,236.168.

·         Saratoga’s total City FTEs (Full Time Employees): 58.35; Menlo Park’s FTEs: 248.75.

How can there be such differences?

1.       The first big difference is that Saratoga contracts out its public safety (police services) to the Sheriff’s Office West Valley Division.*As a result Menlo Park pays $6m more than does Saratoga for Safety services and employs 70 more FTEs for that task. (However, even if we add our Police force to Saratoga’s, the total Saratoga budget would be $23mil compared to $38mil in Menlo Park, and the FTEs would be 128 for Saratoga vs. 249 for Menlo Park.)

 

2.       Saratoga contracts out all of its recreation programs.  (Yet, its on-line recreation guide is almost identical to Menlo Park’s in its scope and types of activities for all ages.)

Yes, there are differences between Menlo Park and Saratoga.  But, this comparison can be used to show that there may be ways for us to shrink the cost of City government while maintaining the kind of City we all want. 

Have you lived in other local cities? And what has your experience been?

As always I enjoy communicating with you at menlofuture@gmail.com

If you would like to read any of my past emails, link to http://menlofuture.weebly.com.

Lee Duboc

* The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office West Valley Patrol Division serves the City of Saratoga for law enforcement services.  The SCSO has 586 sworn personnel which are assigned to numerous divisions.  The sheriff’s Office serves the communities of Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Altos Hills, and the unincorporated areas of the County.  The Sheriff’s Office also maintains contract with the Santa Clara County Superior Court, Valley Transportation Authority, and the Santa Clara County Parks Department for law enforcement services.  With a total County population of approximately 1.7 million people, the Sheriff’s Office has a service population of approximately 197,000.  The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office enjoys a positive reputation among law enforcement communities in California and the United States.

 

(Sources: City of Saratoga’s official City web site; Menlo Park’s official City web site; Wikipedia sites for both cities.)