BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
When a $2 million design for a remodel of the Palo Alto City Council chambers was ushered ahead by a council vote Monday (March 26) night, some were surprised to learn about the city’s $17.2 million information technology fund.
The city charges a 1.8% surcharge on many city services to cover the cost of regular maintenance and replacements for the city’s desktop, software and infrastructure needs.
“Technology has a lifespan,” Kiely Nose, the director of the city’s Office of Management and Budget, told the Post.
Each service transaction, including building permits and inspection fees as well as fees charged by the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course, is subject to a 1.8% technology surcharge that pays into the technology fund.
“It’s much more efficient to scale for an organization as opposed to having every department have their own financial management system,” Nose said.
The $2 million City Council chambers remodel is set to be referred to the city Finance Committee, where Vice Mayor Eric Filseth and council members Greg Scharff, Greg Tanaka and Lydia Kou will “value-engineer”
the options. The project was set into motion despite four council members’ concerns about the cost.
It includes updates to the council chambers’ audio-visual broadcasting equipment, voting system and projection screens.
Included in the project are a separate booth for radio broadcasting, improved wheelchair accessibility and better lighting for video broadcasts.
Council could also opt to reconfigure the dais by seating city employees like the city manager and city attorney alongside council. But first the Finance Committee will take another look at the recommended design from Berkeley-based Shalleck Collaborative, refine the options and evaluate its priorities compared with other infrastructure projects.
The city is also considering a tax hike or bond measure in November to pay for infrastructure projects such as the Junior Museum and Zoo renovation, a new animal shelter or improvements to the Charleston-Arastradero corridor.
The technology fund is separate from any money raised by a tax increase or bond measure.
If they’ve got 17 million in this fund, find a way to use it to pay down that pension debt. If there is some iron clad restrictions on it being used for tech, buy tech stuff the general fund would pay for, and use that money for pensions. If the city doesn’t get control of its pension debt, there won’t be money for all of the basics we want from the city like police, fire and libraries. The council needs to treat this like a crisis now!
A 1.8% tech fund on top of a 5% utilities use tax, plus other fees and charges to use our cell phones, to connect to cable to tv….
Thanks for reporting this. Please cover all the other hidden taxes, fees, user surcharges and all the other ways the city is milking us while the unfunded pension liability cointiunues to grow and the spending continues with no end in sight.