Wrapping up her work as Pleasanton's finance director for the last 4-1/2 years, Emily Wagner has given an upbeat assessment of the municipal government's last fiscal year and an even more optimistic report on the year ahead.
The accomplishments are byproducts of fiscal and economic policies executed by City Manager Nelson Fialho and his executive team, with the support of past and present mayors and city councils.
Wagner's report, presented at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, shows that the city's General Fund revenue climbed to $96.5 million last year, an all-time high, and could top $100 million this fiscal year.
"Some 84% of our revenue comes from property and sales taxes," Wagner said, "so I watch those revenues very closely."
Property taxes, which represent about 53% of the city's revenue, reached $50 million last year and are expected to climb another million dollars or so by July 1, which also will set a new record.
Sales taxes, which suffered the most in the recent recession, are also bouncing back to an estimated $21.7 million.
Across the board, Pleasanton is experiencing significant growth, with a population now at 72,230 and average median household income at $123,509. Those compare to a population of 84,852 in Livermore, where the average median income is $103,351, and Walnut Creek, with a population of 66,900 and an average median household income of $88,257.
"When I came to work in Pleasanton in 1977, we had about $5 million in total annual revenue, compared to the near $100 million today," Wagner said. "As you can see, we've changed dramatically over the years."
Careful planning through the city's General Plan is largely credited for this by ensuring various land-uses can sustain long-term basic services to the community, such as public safety, parks and streets maintenance, and library services.
Along with tax revenue, residential and commercial growth have added to the city's assessed valuation. It stands at $18.7 billion today, compared to Livermore's $14.2 billion and Walnut Creek's $12.2 billion. In fact, Pleasanton's assessed valuation is now the third highest in Alameda County, behind the much larger cities of Oakland and Fremont.
"Pleasanton's continued success is its location, our quality of life, and a diverse commercial and residential land base," Wagner said. "Financially as a city, we are in a very enviable position."
The city also has a solid reputation for being politically stable with a strong management orientation.
The diverse land base, with one-third commercial and two-thirds residential, makes the city less impacted by any sudden downturn in one particular sector of the economy -- again thanks to the proper forethought of the city's General Plan.
"We have a great location, compared say, to the city of Martinez that's in a location which depends on often-gridlocked Highway 4," she said. "Pleasanton has great access to the Silicon Valley, we have BART to San Francisco and we aren't all that far from Sacramento."
Pleasanton is also an employment center with 53,000 coming to jobs here every day. Robust economic initiatives that continue to attract growing companies such as Workday, Clorox, and Roche Molecular have contributed to this success.
Calling Pleasanton "the Orange County of Northern California," Wagner attributed the city's strong finances to a "very conservative" and stable City Council, city management and the fact Pleasanton has had only five directly elected mayors over the past 32 years.
In 2014, Pleasanton had one of the highest median household incomes in the U.S. among cities from 65,000 to 249,999 population, resulting in high-end residential investments that have new appraisals and higher property taxes.
Although Livermore picked up several million dollars in additional sales tax with the opening of the outlet mall, Pleasanton stands to gain lucrative sales tax dollars from increased automobile sales this year. Stoneridge Chrysler-Jeep, moving here from Dublin, will open this summer on Staples Ranch in a new auto mall that will include CarMax and possibly a third company.
Also boosting their Pleasanton sales appeals are Mercedes (which replaced its older showroom building along I-580 with a 72,000-square-foot showroom and service facility), Lexus with its new 83,000-square-foot expansion, and renovations underway at the Mini and BMW dealerships.
An Asian-focused retail center on Staples also will increase sales tax revenue. Retail stores in the Stoneridge Shopping Center, as a group, contribute the largest percentage of sales tax revenue to the city, along with Walmart and the Macy's Furniture store in Rosewood Pavilion. Also in 2014, most of the retail space was leased in Gateway Center, where the new Safeway Lifestyle supermarket opened two years ago, adding more sales tax revenue.
With an inventory of more than 2 million square feet of retail space, vacancy is extremely low at approximately 8% and lease rates have jumped by more than 20%. The current retail vacancy rate in downtown Pleasanton is around 5% with only a few Main Street locations available.
Also on the rise is Pleasanton's hotel occupancy tax. Many hotels are now sold out during the week, an indication that corporate business has rebounded. The 292-room Hilton Hotel at the I-580/I-680 interchange was re-branded as a DoubleTree hotel this year and underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation. The hotel owner is exploring options for expansion.
Pleasanton also received several accolades in late 2014: 24/7 Wall Street ranked the city fourth on its list of America's 50 Best Cities to Live, and Money Magazine ranked Pleasanton 31st on its 2014 Best Places to Live and ninth on its Top Earning Towns.
"With such a breadth of activity across all sectors, Pleasanton continues to be well-positioned to sustain and grow its economic base," Wagner said.
Wagner's successor, Tina Olson, formerly the director of finance and administration for the city of Pittsburg, assumed the duties of director of finance in Pleasanton last Monday. She joins an organization led by Fialho that will continue to implement city's strong financial and economic initiatives into the future.