In January, the Visalia City Council received and reviewed the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for fiscal year July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017. State law requires a complete set of audited financial statements annually by the city. This report, which was almost 200 pages long, gives the City Council an opportunity to review the financial health of the city and is done by an outside auditor.
The report showed that over the prior year, sales tax revenues had increased by 4 percent, property tax revenues had increased by 5 percent and transient occupancy taxes had increased by 12 percent. Excluding revenues from the sale of land, we ended that fiscal year with a $900 million surplus! By adding that surplus to our emergency reserves, along with interest earnings and some land transfer revenues, this brought the reserves’ ending balance up to $12.9 million. The council then authorized the transfer from unassigned funds of another $1.5 million to increase the emergency reserves’ balance to $14.4 million. Another way that I refer to our emergency reserves is our “rainy day funds.”
The goal of the council has been to build up those reserves to 25 percent of our general fund. The new balance achieves that 25 percent goal and is the highest that our city’s emergency reserves have ever been. I note that because of the Great Recession, the emergency reserves reached a low point of $1.3 million in 2012-13 and this City Council has rebuilt the reserves to what we have currently. Now that we have rebuilt the emergency reserves, we can start using future surpluses to save up for other projects.
Currently, we are enjoying a relatively prosperous economy, but we are prepared for the time when such is not the case. The general conclusion of the CAFR was that Visalia is in good financial condition overall. We always appreciate receiving this type of good news.
More good news is that Area Development Magazine recently came out with its 2017 rankings related to metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), based upon performance in prime work force, economic strength, year-overyear growth and five-year growth. Overall, Visalia/Porterville’s MSA (Tulare County) ranked 64th out of 394 MSAs across the country, which was a vast improvement over our 2016 ranking. This new ranking was the highest in the Central Valley region. By comparison, Fresno ranked 105th, Modesto 152nd and Bakersfield 374th. This is more good news for our city and area, and we look forward to 2018 being another banner year!
Our local police department held its first awards ceremony on Jan. 17. Chief Jason Salazar handed out many well-deserved awards to employees of our police department. One of the awards was the “lifesaving award,” given to four of our police staff who acted heroically when they happened to be at a concert in Las Vegas in 2017 where shooting broke out. They assisted other concertgoers and saved lives by their quick action, even though they were off duty at the time.
Space does not allow me to go into detail about all of the well-deserved awards that were presented that afternoon. Suffice it to say that we appreciate what our public safety officers do in our community. While I’m at it, let me just share part of a letter that I received from local community member “Fred” complementing
Officer Tim Connors. Officer Connors assisted Fred in recovering some stolen property that Fred wasn’t even aware had been taken! Fred wrote: “Thanks to Tim Connors, I got my property back and his actions will probably help convict these burglars. His quick work helped prove that there had been a break-in, goods were stolen, and it made me feel really great!”
If you haven’t thanked one of our public safety officers recently for what
they do in our community, next time you come across one, let them know that you appreciate their efforts.