Robust Housing Market Underpins City Revenue Growth

One year removed from schools and many businesses shutting down due to COVID-19, local governments are honing a clearer picture of the economic fallout from the pandemic.
Alex Kung, La Cañada Flintridge director of finance, had a simple summation for city council members during a special meeting on Tuesday.
“In summary, the city’s net position changed for the positive over the past year,” he said.
The comprehensive annual financial report has the city’s statement of net position — similar to a balance sheet — with an increase of approximately $3.4 million from the previous fiscal year. In total, the city gained $23,998,831 in revenue and spent $20,610,048.
The general fund balance shot up from $13.7 million to $17 million this year, mainly due to the higher-than-expected property taxes and building permit fees. The revenue for property taxes was $8.6 million, an increase of $439,482 from the previous year.
The lack of recreational events and programs saved LCF money from operating costs and paying Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies overtime.
The revenue from 2019-20 came in lower than the previous year by more than $2 million, but Kung noted that the sale of the old City Hall building inflated the numbers for 2018-19.
Sales tax registered $96,578 less in 2020, but Kung said “that’s not too bad for a pandemic.”
“What really kept sales tax from dipping even more was increased sales tax that we received from online businesses such as Amazon,” he added. “In addition, our local brick and mortar Target did well during the pandemic, so I encourage everyone to keep shopping.”
Figures from sales tax and online shopping continue to help the city. Six months into the 2020-21 fiscal year, the general fund revenue is estimated at $6.15 million, outpacing the previous year by $406,500.
The city council approved changes to the budget that estimated a net change to expenditures by $216,300. They approved the appropriation of additional funds for the publishing of public hearings and legal notices, watering for parks and joint use fields, Lanterman House repairs and improving phone and internet at City Hall.
While adjustments to the budget would leave the city with $16,800 in available funds, five residents submitted public comments urging city council members to allocate funding to the Climate Action Plan, a long-range plan adopted back in 2016 aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from local government operations, community activities and lowering consumption and cost of water and energy.
“Let’s use these extra funds to start doing something locally to maintain our planet’s health for our children and grandchildren,” LCF resident Miriam Ellis wrote to council members.
Ellis suggested that the city plan an education program advising residents how to implement the CAP recommendations. She, along with other community members, also recommended that the city hire a consultant to update the city’s plan.
Councilwoman Terry Walker asked staff for an update on CAP, and Susan Koleda, LCF director of community development, said that the city has done some implementation actions such as updating building codes to make them more energy compliant.
There are several ordinances that have been suggested — such as the banning of single-use products — but none have actually been updated or brought before council.
Koleda noted that the city staff has been working with energy companies and water agencies on rebates and incentives for residents, but that it would require the council to dedicate “significant funding” toward CAP. So far, the city has not planned to invest any funds in CAP this fiscal year, she added.
“We will be looking at proposing something [in next year’s budget],” Koleda assured Walker.