Pleasanton receives a clean bill of financial health | February 15, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - February 15, 2013

Pleasanton receives a clean bill of financial health

Independent auditors gave the city of Pleasanton a clean bill of health last week after closing the financial books for the Fiscal year that ended last June 30. The comprehensive annual financial report by the firm of Vavrinek, Trine, Day & Co. said that for the 15th consecutive year, the city's audit has met the highest standards in government accounting and financial reporting practices. The city also maintained its AA (Double A) rating by Standard and Poor's. With few exceptions California cities top out with a Double A rating although many are lower.

In the FY2012, the assets of Pleasanton exceeded its liabilities by $872.4 million. Of this amount, $157.8 million in unrestricted net assets may be used to meet ongoing obligations, another $58.2 million is restricted for specific purposes, and $656.4 million is invested in capital assets.

The city's total net assets increased by $5 million during the fiscal year, a 0.6% increase during a time of slow recovery from the recent economic recession. The city also has maintained an unrestricted reserve of $25.3 million committed for economic uncertainties, another $11 million that can be used in the event of a temporary recession, and $2 million assigned to service the roughly $24 million Callippe Preserve golf course construction debt.

The audit report, made to the Pleasanton City Council by the city's Finance Director Emily Wagner, also showed that unfunded pension liabilities for city police and miscellaneous employees, and the city's share of those liabilities for the jointly-operated Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, now stand at between $131 million and $162 million. Last year, those liabilities decreased by approximately 13% because of improved market conditions. More reductions are expected this fiscal year as the council sets aside surplus funds for paying down the liabilities and as employees pay more, themselves, toward their pensions. Contracts negotiated with unions representing police and firefighters raised the individual pension contributions to 9%. Negotiations of contract provisions affecting all other city employees, a contract that expires March 31, will also seek to raise individual contributions from the current 4% to 9%. All managers in city departments already pay 8% toward their health and pension benefits.

Also affecting the good financial standing of Pleasanton municipal finances is the decision three years ago, as the recession began, to freeze employee wages and temporarily halt hiring, even to fill vacant positions. That may see some softening this year, as it should, with property tax revenue increasing slightly although sales taxes continued to lag.

The City Council, which has curtailed all capital spending since the construction of the $10 million Firehouse Arts Center, will meet next month to consider revisiting that freeze. It may be that with a bit more municipal revenue forecast for 2013, and with a promise of financial support from the youth sports community, we can at least start building the lighted sports fields promised years ago on the still-mostly-empty Bernal Community Park across from the Fairgrounds and along Bernal Avenue.