May 3 2023

OPINION: Piedmont Payroll and Benefits Obligations Cause Spending Problem

“Piedmont has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”

Piedmont Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee report

Some highlights from the April Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee  (BAFPC) meeting:

Four Year Capital Improvement Program: 

2022-23 2023-24 2024-25 2025-26 TOTAL
FACILITIES 613,000 4,361,000 855,000 420,000 6,249,000
PARKS 458,000 900,000 395,000 109,000 1,862,000
PARK PATHWAYS 100,000 100,000 100,000 100,000 400,000
TENNIS COURTS 80,000 200,000 270,000 550,000
SUSTAINABILITY 50,000 125,000 476,500 28,000 679,500
GREEN INFRA- STURCTURE 400,000 400,000
COMMUNITY POOL 60000 400000 460,000
TOTAL $1,361,000 $6,486,000 $2,989,050 $657,000 $10,600,500










Estimates to replace/renovate Essential Services facilities, City hall basement and Recreation Building:     $16, 450,000. – 52,585,425.


Proposed FY23-24 will include a part-time Facilities Project Manager:            $100,000/year

Increase in Planning Department Part-time staff:                                           $180,400

Increase in Planning Department Supplemental and Consulting service:       $519,000

Consulting for Moraga Canyon Specific Plan:                                                  $700,000

2 new dispatch positions Police Department:       $282,000, 5-year cost = $1, 518,000


2 new dispatchers would require a 11% increase in the parcel tax.


Property taxes receipts were 8% above the previous year (well above expected) and the real property transfer tax for 20222/23 was projected to come in at $4.7M, almost $1M above estimates.

For more details email Finance Director Michael Szczech,

In year’s past, City Council would have the assistance of two citizen committees to assist in reviewing these spending and tax increases.   The Municipal Tax Review Committee (MTRC) would meet every two years prior to the parcel tax being put on the ballot for renewal. The MTRC held public meetings and met with all department heads to review service levels and department needs.

The Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC ) has replaced the MTRC but is not conducting the comprehensive review of city departments the prior committee once did. With the addition of the Measure UU assessments, the likely increase in the parcel tax, and a possible new bond for essential service buildings, the BAFPC should revisit its 2018 study of taxes in comparable cities to assess the long-term impact of these new tax adoptions on Piedmont.  That study found Piedmont’s tax levels acceptable based on comparison with Hillsborough.

The other committee was the Capital Improvement Projects Committee (CIP) which reviewed staff and citizen proposals for capital improvement projects.  With Piedmont’s conservative budgeting, there’s always a surplus in city revenues at the end of the year and CIP annually met to review proposals for capital projects from staff but also from residents.  Residents filled out a form and presented to the committee. The Indian Road, Ronada/Ramona and Kingston traffic islands all were initiated through the CIP process.  CIP seems to have been disbanded after COVID – the committee is no longer listed among the city’s commission and committees.  In my experience, the CIP provided a good reality check to staff proposals.  For example, in response to a question from a BAFPC committee member, staff said the primary criteria for CIP is safety and that is true.  This year’s top CIP project is the Piedmont Park – Guilford stairs at the cost of $388,000.  That project was initiated by a fall on the stairs and what could have been addressed with a handrail has morphed into a major beautification project.  Has this project diverted funding from other safety projects like Park Way and Highland where a pedestrian was hit by a car? A CIP committee asking these questions earlier in project development would provide significant cost savings.

The opening line of the first BAFPC report was: “Piedmont has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”  That was speaking to the payroll and benefits obligations of the city at the time.  Piedmont is receiving record tax revenue and should reconvene the CIP and MTRC committees so it doesn’t slip back into a spending problem.

Garrett Keating, Former Member of the Piedmont City Council

Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

 On Tuesday May 9, The Budget Advisory & Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) will meet again at 6:00 pm in the EOC (Emergency Operations Center  of the Piedmont Police Department at Highland and Vista Avenues.)

The important BAFPC meetings, unlike Piedmont Commission meetings, are not broadcast or video recorded by the City. Minutes are not kept of the Committee meetings, although required by the City Charter.  The public may attend and participate in the meetings with a right to obtain all materials distributed to the Committee members. The public has a right to make audio and video recordings of the meetings.

4 Responses to “OPINION: Piedmont Payroll and Benefits Obligations Cause Spending Problem”

  1. City Hall is eliminating some important checks and balances. Is this a precursor to a large bond measure before us? Significant parcel tax increase?

  2. A BAFPC member could record the 5/9 meeting on their phone and post on the city’s YouTube channel. Many cities are using YouTube to record public meetings.

    Check this out from Piedmont’s channel:

  3. I chaired the 2011 MTRC that led to the creation of the BAFPC. The final MTRC report made all these points and in proposing the creation of the permanent BAFPC I expected that it would take a strong role of independent financial oversight for the city. In the 12 years since, city councils have come and gone, city administrators have come and gone, finance directors have come and gone, but little has been done to fix the city’s lax spending habits. The BAFPC is just a rubber stampe and business as usual continues in Piedmont.

  4. Thanks, Garrett for your usual sterling research. You are correct that the CIP Committee, of which I’m a member, has been in abeyance since the beginning of Covid, a staff decision, not the committee’s. Whether we’d have made any better project choices than what we see with staff doing them alone is hard to say. But there would have been citizen outreach and publicly visible prioritization of the potential projects. Instead, we’ve seen staff selection of projects, albeit with apparent Council concurrence.

    I had also served on the CIP Committee back in the 2003-2007 period, then staffed by Mark Feldkamp. That was a vigorous and active program with significantly higher levels of public participation. The successful median and park improvements you’ve mentioned were from that process.

    Having only staff-run CIP selection runs the risk, for staff, of losing the cover of decisions being attributed to the committee and to the public. Also the Council is forced to be the only review body when a project becomes controversial. Now, we have seen improvements like bulbouts being made without desirable green infrastructure being integrated into them. With the too-frequent turnover in administrators, one cannot even attribute apparent policy decisions to individual administrators.

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