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Report shows tax-revenue increases across the board for Los Altos


A Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) on the 2012-2013 fiscal year revealed that the city remains financially sound.

Finance Director Russ Morreale told the Los Altos City Council Dec. 10 that the city fared better than projected during its last fiscal year – which turned over June 30 – with a “very healthy” $3.1 million surplus – approximately twice as much as expected.

Morreale attributed the surplus to what he called “good news on both sides of the fence” – a combination of “fairly robust revenue growth” coupled with department expenses coming in 6 percent below budget. Morreale noted that he’s starting to see “a light at the end of the tunnel” in terms of economic recovery.

“Overall, this was a very positive CAFR,” said Morreale, who added that the city once again attained an unqualified – or clean – opinion from auditors Burr Pilger Mayer. “It’s the most positive financial result I’ve seen since I’ve been here as the finance director, and there are many things to be happy about.”

Morreale highlighted that the city saw gains in nearly all of its revenue streams, pointing specifically to an approximate $800,000 increase in property taxes over fiscal year 2011-2012. Other sources with gains include sales tax, with an approximate $180,000 year-over-year increase; a $160,000-plus gain in transient occupancy tax; and a nearly $120,000 gain in real estate transfer taxes. He noted that revenues came in 5 percent higher than projected and 8 percent more than the previous year. Total tax revenues came in at more than $1.5 million over the previous fiscal year.

“This is notable,” said Morreale, who also highlighted the city’s decision in July to complete a CalPERS side-fund paydown that began five years ago. “I have not put up a chart in the past where I did not have at least one negative. There were positives across the board this year.”

Still, Morreale sounded a word of caution for challenges ahead. His report to the council revealed that national and state recoveries remain “protracted and moderate,” while large CalPERS rate increases in the near future are cause for concern. In addition, Morreale pointed to future increases in employee health-care costs, workers’ compensation and insurance liability claims, as well as the need for funding to modernize some of the city’s aging civic facilities.

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