Ron Galperin has added more value to the City Controller’s office than all of his predecessors combined (the last occupant actually decremented the office’s role).
It is not just opening up the books of the city to the average resident and standing up to the thug running the DWP’s IBEW Local 18, either. Galperin has changed how the city reports its performance to the public.
The preliminary financial report is a scaled down version of the final Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). It is the closest thing to an aggregate summary the city has, yet prior preliminary reports were an encyclopedia of vast detail with poor graphical or tabular displays of key relationships. One would have to spend hours sifting through pages of bureaucratic vernacular to uncover relevant details.
Ron’s integration of bullet points in the sidebar and crisp charts displaying the most meaningful data are refreshing enhancements compared to the mind-numbing narratives prevalent in past reports. Not only do they facilitate a better understanding of performance drivers, but the points should spur some casual readers to delve deeper into the subject matter, perhaps searching the internet for related topics.
There is always room for improvement.
A summary similar to the preliminary report should be included in the final CAFR. While little should change in the time between the issuance of the two reports, there should be a summary that is a product of the audited financial statements.
Both the preliminary and CAFR should include more trend analysis with respect to key revenue and cost components. For example, property tax revenue is the largest single source of revenue (33%), but it is the least controllable. Assessed values have stayed relatively flat since the mortgage crisis. Oddly enough, it may have been Proposition 13’s automatic increases that prevented them from falling through the floor. Links to real property data and projections should be an integral part of the report. I would go so far as recommending an annual report on this subject alone.
The city’s share of pension contributions, just short of a billion dollars in 2013-14, represented 16% of the general fund. It was a mere 4% back in 2002-03 at $194 million. It will likely grow, especially if the Coalition of City Unions is able to halt the rather sensible reform measures Mayor Garcetti helped craft when he was president of the City Council.
The growth rate of the city’s contribution is unsustainable. Galperin should issue an annual report tracking the latest developments on this front and the potential impact upon future years. He can work in concert with Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.
These are just three examples of important disclosures.
The voters elected the right person to the office. We now need to do everything possible to support and encourage Ron’s practical and informative approach to reporting the city’s financial position.