Monday, February 23, 2015

CAFR's Upward Trend is Real

For city finance wonks, Christmas comes twice a year: once in August when the city budget is set and again in February when the city financial audit is published. The budget specifies the city's cash flow (its planned revenues and expenses). The financial audit details the city's assets (the value of city property, bank accounts, etc.) and its liabilities (outstanding debt, pension obligations, etc.).

After the jump, a quick look at this year's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

From the 2014 CAFR:
The Statement of Net Position presents information on all of the City's assets and liabilities, including capital assets and long-term obligations. The difference between the two is reported as net position. Over time, the increases or decreases in net position may serve as a useful indicator of whether the financial position of the City is improving or deteriorating.
The CAFR advises that indicators other than net position should be taken into consideration, too, and goes into mind-numbing detail for 148 pages. But let's look at that bottom line figure, net assets, and how it has increased and decreased over time.

Assets and Liabilities (in thousands)
YearAssetsDeferred OutflowsLiabilitiesNet Position

Note: 2012-2014 statements break out deferred outflows of resources, as per new standards in GASB Statement 63.

After peaking in 2007 at $220,951,000, net position had decreased five straight years, bottoming at $179,468,000 in 2012. The CAFR suggests that a decline in net position may serve as a useful indicator that the financial position of Richardson is deteriorating.

Thankfully, the last two years saw a rebound in that net position. The city's net position is still below where it was in 2004, the farthest back I can find data for, but at least it has rebounded from its low. The peak was in 2007, the last year before the bottom fell out of the economy. Recovery from the Great Recession has been slow, but if two years define a trend, we might be able to declare that the recovery in Richardson has finally taken hold. As Richardson goes, so goes the nation. Or, if we're going to be honest about it, vice versa.

No comments: