Friday, July 15, 2016

Higher-than-expected tax revenues signal continuing recovery path for Yorba Linda

Yorba Linda in 2016 continues on a strong recovery path from the 2009 low-point of the Great Recession, with even better economic news forecast for the coming year, as reliably measured by the higher-than-expected income the city is receiving in property and sales tax revenue.

Other income from fees and charges related to the city's economic activity is also more than was estimated when a two-year budget was adopted by the City Council in September 2015.

That's the takeaway from a report Finance Director Scott Catlett presented at a recent council meeting. Also, Catlett indicated he'd be back to the governing body with recommendations for updating the city's “user fees,” noting “significant increases are anticipated in some fees.”

Here are some highlights from Catlett's 11-page report:

--For the just-completed fiscal year, sales taxes led the list of revenues that increased over the amounts estimated several months previously, bringing in $803,000 more than predicted. The income from property taxes was $553,000 higher than expected.

Franchise taxes, the dollars residents pay on utilities, including cable television, brought in an extra $209,000, and engineering fees, charges and permits added $197,000 more to receipts.

Only permits issued for building activity brought in less than estimated, with a $766,000 drop, due to several projects assumed to be ready “not yet moving through the permitting process.”

For the fiscal year that started July 1, property tax revenue is expected to be $17.3 million, an increase of another $885,290, and sales taxes are anticipated to total nearly $7.4 million, with an additional $410,407 increase.

The city's reserve fund is projected to total $25 million on June 30, 2017, about 80 percent of a typical year's operating budget.

--Usually, the city budgets $100,000 yearly to pay workers compensation claims outstanding from the time Brea provided the city's police services. However, claims in 2015-16 jumped to
$365,000 due to the settlement of two cases.

After several conversations with Brea officials, Catlett reported the city has “gathered data regarding the remaining liability and expected cash flows in future years.” He added, “The
current estimated workers compensation liability amounts to $1.3 million (for 22 open cases).”

--User fees and charges residents pay to the city or through contractors for city services haven't been updated in many cases since 2005, and a 2013 review was delayed due to staff turnover and a need to conduct further analysis.

Now, Catlett plans to recommend “appropriate, and as needed gradual, increases to fees to bring cost recovery levels up to what the City Council determines to be an appropriate level.”

Catlett also plans to introduce a five-year financial plan with five years of income projections, a revised policy regarding the city's substantial reserve fund and a presentation on the city's unfunded needs.