In a speedy 22-minute Vista City Council meeting last night, the bright news may be the unanimous vote of elected officials on the dais to approve the fiscal year’s fourth quarter financial report and a recommendation, made by City Manager Patrick Johnson, to feed the underfunded pension elephant.
Dale Nielsen, City Treasurer and Director of Finance for the City of Vista, floated the numbers in his appearance before the mayor and council members which included this opening statement:
“For the 2013/14 fiscal year general fund revenues from outside sources totaled 67.5 million dollars. This is up from the prior year amount of 60.7 million.When charges to other funds and transfers are added in, total general fund revenue for 72.4 million dollars.”
“I am pleased to report once again,” said Nielson, “that all general fund budget units came in under their budgeted amounts. After accounting for reserves and designations, there is $5,767,000 of available year-end general fund balance. The City Manager has outlined his recommendations for the use of the year-end fund balance, and that can be found on page two of the staff report.”
The largest portion recommended by City Manager Johnson would be the use of “$4,480,000 dollars to pay off the PERS safety plan side fund,” said Nielson. Which allows Vista’s public sector employees who were promised a pension when they retired, perhaps a hope to breathe a little easier.
Nielsen also reported on property and sales tax revenue.
“Total property taxes were up slightly over the prior year. This is because in the prior year there was a one-time payment we received from the county for close to $450,000 dollars for a one-time payment to refund some property tax administration fees that were collected by the county in error. So if we remove that from the prior year number, property taxes are up nearly a half-a-million dollars.”
In mentioning sales tax revenues, the Treasurer stated:
“Sales tax revenues, not including Prop L, came in at just slightly over $15 million dollars for the year – first time ever that we’ve cracked that $15 million dollar mark. And that’s an increase of about $700,000 dollars over the prior year. We’re close to five percent.”
The council members were directed to look at Exhibit 2 of staff report revenue items which also included items that were “earned by June 30th,” according to Nielson, “but may not have been received until July or August.”
Then the council members were directed to look at Exhibit 4 with Nielson highlighting that the total operational expenditures were “just under 89%” of amount authorized.
PERS Public Safety Plan
A recent CalPERS link provided by Paul LaBelle writer at AverageVistan tells the story of the side fund:
“The City’s PERS Public Safety Plan is part of a State-wide pool plan because there were less than 100 City employees within the plan when the pool was created. The pool was created to help alleviate the large fluctuation in rates that can occur for those agencies with a smaller number of employees participating in their plan.”
Details for the reader include this statement at the CalPERS link:
“The side fund liability is amortized over time. Vista’s side fund liability is scheduled to be
paid off in the 2024/25 fiscal year.”
LaBelle’s article, back at AverageVistan, includes the information that the “current unfunded liability of the CalPERS Vista Miscellaneous Plan is just over $28 million dollars.”
Some back and forth did occur between Nielson and Deputy Mayor John Aguilera and the treasurer last night however.
“I just noticed,” said Aguilera. “It seems like all of our items are over by about five or six [or] 10%. So, are we just underestimating or [being conservative]–?”
Nielson replied. “Well … it’s a lot easier to go back and do something with money at the end of the year that you already have than it is to unspend money we’ve already spent.”
Aguilera agreed. “That’s good. Better to be in the positive and the black.”
Councilmember Dave Cowles made the motion to approve but told Nielson “thank you.”
Besides the idea to use $4,480,000 dollars to pay off the PERS safety plan side fund, the council also approved the use of $847,000 to increase the revenue shortfall reserve or the emergency reserve to bring it up to 16%, and $229,000 to fund LED street lights.