A Los Angeles County report listed Santa Clarita 36th out of 88 incorporated cities in a fiscal health review, according to the findings recently released by the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury.
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The survey ranked the city based on data from the fiscal years 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Santa Clarita finished three spots improved from its 2012 ranking and nine spots lower than the city’s 2011 ranking, when the city was 27th.
“I think it was a really good topic to look at and explore,” said Darren Hernandez, city treasurer for Santa Clarita, although noting an issue with the context the county used for cities’ disclosures.
“One of the shortfalls or challenges in the methodology that they undertook is that because of the size and scope of the number of local governments, they really didn’t have the ability to make individual assessments on cities,” Hernandez said, describing a snapshot approach to the survey.
By using only a two-year window, Santa Clarita’s scores reflect the one-time expenditures of capital funds for projects, such as the the new library in downtown Newhall, although it doesn’t reflect the savings that took place in order to bid and construct these types of projects, he said.
One of the areas where this is reflected is the city’s net general fund, which, in 2010-11 saw a $5.9 million improvement over the course of a year, whereas in 2011-12, saw a $13.7 million reduction, from $83.69 million to $69.9 million over the course of the fiscal year.
Over the two-year period, city officials also saw the unassigned general fund balance, which is the portion of Santa Clarita’s operations budget that’s not assigned to specific expenditures, rise from $46.9 million to $50.6 million, which was good for 16th best.
In 2010-11, the city had approximately $133.1 million in total revenues and $159.4 million in expenditures; and in 2011-12, the city had $152.2 million in total revenues and $155.9 million in expenditures.
“Since it’s not in context, in some of the tables that they have in the report, we get a slightly lower grade because we have more money coming out than we do coming in,” Hernandez said. “We’re always operationally balanced.”
The fiscal health ranking is based on the number of positive responses garnered from a survey of 32 questions that looked at six financial criteria.
Redondo Beach was ranked No. 1, while Cudahy and the city of Industry tied for last place.
Hermosa Beach, Lancaster and Westlake Village tied with Santa Clarita for its percentage of positive responses, with 75 percent.
The county report reviews the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and financial statements for each of the 88 cities.
It identifies best practices related to governance, developed a questionnaire and analysed each of the city’s responses, and then followed up those responses by requesting financial documents.
Santa Clarita is the fourth largest city, population-wise, in Los Angeles county, with approximately 177,641 residents, the report notes.
Among the top-five cities for population, Los Angeles (4,094,764); Long Beach (494,709); Glendale (207,902); Santa Clarita; and Pomona (163,683), Santa Clarita is tied with Pomona for fewest number of city employees earning more than $200,000.
Santa Clarita and Pomona both have two, while Los Angeles has 411; Long Beach has 15; and Glendale has 15.
Beverly Hills, which has 36, 224 residents, has 64 employees earning over $200,000 Culver City, which has 40,722 residents, has 14.
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Source: Santa Clarita News