Signal Hill Finances Are Stable Despite the Economy
By Mike Noll
Signal Hill Mayor
Many cities are feeling the financial strain caused by the troubled economy. Fortunately, the City of Signal Hill’s finances are stable because of prudent financial management and the economic development programs that have placed the City in a position to weather the economic storm that is also affecting the state and the nation.
Almost daily the newspaper headlines tell us about government agencies eliminating programs, furloughing or laying off workers, or even filing for bankruptcy. The State of California estimates that it will run out of money by the end of February. The City of Signal Hill is in a much better financial position than the state and many cities. Over the past several years, including the prosperous times, the City Council has shown fiscal responsibility by taking a conservative budget approach and establishing “rainy day” accounts to help the City through tough financial times. For example, during the preparation of the fiscal year 2008-09 city budget, the City Council recognized that the economy was slowing and that the City should anticipate a decline in revenues. In response, the City Council placed caps on spending.
One of the Council’s proudest achievements has been its decision to set money aside in reserve accounts when the economy and City revenues were strong. Since the year 2000, the balances in the reserve accounts have grown from $7.2 million to $18.9 million. The money in the reserve accounts, such as the Economic Uncertainties Fund, will help the City continue to provide programs and services if we lose a major revenue-generating business such as an auto dealership. The reserve accounts will also safeguard the City as the State has begun to defer and delay required payments to the City. The State has already raided over $1,000,000 away from the Signal Hill Redevelopment Agency this year. The City Council believes the State will continue looking at cities as their own personal piggy banks. But, we will fight to protect our revenues. This is why we have joined dozens of cities to challenge the Agency raids.
The City Council and staff are also working together to ensure that Signal Hill receives a share of the infrastructure stimulus package being developed by the federal government. The City has requested over $30 million for a variety of public works projects that will enable the City to keep its money for other uses. The stimulus package requests include funding for the new police station, street repairs, and a recycled water system. Additionally, the City is placing itself in position to be ready to improve its financial status when the economy recovers. The Signal Hill Redevelopment Agency is acquiring and cleaning up several blighted vacant commercial/industrial properties that can be used to strengthen the Signal Hill Auto Center or developed into other revenue generating use such as retail or hotel.
The City Council believes that the City has positioned itself to weather the current economic storm through sound fiscal management and responsible economic development.