Costa Mesa City Hall has issued a press release telling us the City will have a surplus of at least $6 million this year. The press release also asserts that “Over the past four fiscal years, the city’s budget surpluses have added up [emphasis added] to $19.4 million.”
So our General Fund should really be growing, right? We don’t have audited numbers yet for the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year, but the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (here) show less than a $5 million increase from 2010 to 2013.
This shows a decrease in the General fund from 2012 to 2013.
Sometimes money is transferred between different City funds. Let’s look at the balance in all of our government funds.
Hmmm. There’s a drop in total fund balance from 2012 to 2013, too.
With all those surpluses, our fund balance should be well on the way to pre-recession levels. Then why have our assets crept up so little?
We did take a loss due to closure of the Redevelopment Agency. The City Council had little to no control over that.
On the other hand, the Council majority is crowing about revenue increases over which they had had little to no control, either. If they want to own the up side, then they need to own the down side as well.
Where did the “up side” come from? Obviously, a big factor was the recovering economy. City budgets show that annual sales tax revenue increased from $34.6 million in FY 2009-2010 to $45.8 million in FY 2012-2013.
In addition, Costa Mesa voters approved an increase in the hotel tax in November 2010, the same election which put our current Mayor in office. Just the increase in the hotel tax rate brought in a little under $4 million over 2010-2013, with additional increases due to the economy.
We also got over $5 million from narcotics asset seizures from 2011-2013. Since it takes a few years for the Feds to process these funds, we may still have a little of that trickling in from past seizures, but with our decimated Police Department don’t expect to see much of that generated in the future.
Speaking of decimation, we also got a couple million as our share of the assets remaining in the now-defunct helicopter program.
Wow with all that money coming in, Costa Mesa should be rolling in dough. Our reserves should be way up, shouldn’t they?
Sure, if the City didn’t spend the surplus. In November of 2013, also before the audit was released, the City began making plans for spending the “FY 2012-2013 surplus of $7.1 million”. Ultimately a spending plan for $5.5 million of the surplus was adopted.
At the same time, proposed spending for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 was increased by a $1.568 million. That means “extra” money at the end of 2013-2014 includes a carryover of the “extra” $1.568 million from 2012-2013. Has anything else been double counted?
We do know one thing that isn’t counted in the overall figures for government fund balance—decreases in the self insurance fund recently analyzed by Anna Vrska (link).