The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) is a report used by cities and local governments to provide the public with their financial records each year, while adhering to government accounting standards board (GASB) guidelines. The report presents a comprehensive picture of the reporting entity’s financial condition, it provides how funds are spent and allocated throughout the year.
I will be covering the Carlsbad CAFR for the year ended 2011. The beautiful city of Carlsbad is located along the coast of southern California.
Carlsbad is known for its beautiful beaches and lagoons which cover 1,000 Acres of nature preserves and hiking trails. Its history dates back to 1700. Before becoming part of the United States, it was a territory of Spain and then Mexico, and the shoreline of Carlsbad’s coastal lagoon was home to the indigenous Luiseno and Diegueños Indians for centuries before the arrival of the Spaniards (City of Carlsbad, n.d.). The current population of the city is approximately 107,000 residents; total area is 42 Sq.
Miles (City of Carlsbad, n.d). The cities top business consists of hospitality, life science, sporting goods and recreation, and telecommunications.
The city provides a wide range of services to residents such as; police, fire, infrastructure, and general administration, the CAFR provides detailed information about how these services are funded, and the type of the governmental funds allocated for these services. The city exhibits accountability and honesty by sharing the CAFR with its residents, in turn this builds trust in the residents toward their city, trust in that their hard-earned money is being used in the appropriate services, and these funds are put back into the maintenance and development of their communities.
I will be presenting an analysis of Carlsbad’s comprehensive annual financial report for the year ended 2011. The report consists of three sections that are introductory, financial, and statistical.
The introductory for the city Carlsbad’s CAFR begins with a five-year vision statement. It is a general vision statement; I find very encouraging, and reassuring to present it before going into depth with the report. It includes the city’s economic goal, programs, policies, and decisions to be implemented by the city’s officials; it also lists the type of leadership, the open government policy, and they type of environmental services and how they are managed. Then one can find the Letter of Transmittal presented by the city’s finance department, addressed to the mayor, city council and citizens of Carlsbad. The letter is to explain why the CAFR is prepared, what is included in the CAFR, the guidelines followed such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and that GASB requirements were preserved in the report. The finance department received an auditing from the independent auditing firm Mayer Hoffman McCann, they also included where the results of the auditing can be located which I will cover in the financial analysis later on.
In addition the letter offers an audited governments’ internal control and compliance with legal requirements that were in place. The letter also includes a profile of the city, stating the population, the geographical location of the city, a section about the city of Carlsbad community vision, the budget process that explains priority projects for the city, and budgetary controls. Followed by factors affecting financial condition, this section covers the Economic profile, long term financial planning, and cash management. The Economic profile covers economic strengths and weakness of the city. The city shows improvement in most of its General fund revenues, and is expecting to increase by $ 2.3 Million or 2.1 percent in fiscal year 2011-12; weakness in residential housing market affected by property tax and 0.2 percent decrease is also anticipated in coming year (City of Carlsbad, n.d.)
One of the leading factors to the economic crisis in the United States was the housing market; this had affected Carlsbad negatively, house prices fell like that in many cities in the country. They fell by 8 percent in Carlsbad compared to the last year, and the following is a chart showing the trend in housing prices in the city (City of Carlsbad, n.d.)
Long term financial planning states that it is the City’s Council’s goal to ensure that their city remains in good financial health. The city has taken a number of steps to attain this goal, setting forth a Growth Management Plan. The plan was adopted by the citizens. It ensures that all the necessary public facilities are either constructed along with development or that a financing plan is in place to pay for the facilities prior to the development of the property. To ensure this plan is effective, an Infrastructure Replacement Fund was created. This fund sets aside money on a yearly basis for major maintenance and replacement of its infrastructure (City of Carlsbad, n.d.).
The creation of this fund is a brilliant idea, so when the time comes to make the necessary improvement the city would have the money ready, and it would not have to transfer money from other governmental funds. As the economy is expected to slowly recover, it will provide to support to the largest aspect of our economy, the housing market. The General fund revenue will continue to cover the ongoing cost as seen in the following graph (City of Carlsbad, n.d).
The last part of the letter was informative about cash management, major initiatives and projects. The cash management section covers the investment programs, its procedures as well as its objectives. The major initiatives and projects section goes in to detail about the upcoming projects, it also provides developments and the maintenance of these projects that are designed to strengthen and improve the community. Followed by the letter of transmittal are the Awards and acknowledgments, the government finance officers association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) awarded the city of Carlsbad the certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting to the city of Carlsbad for its CAFR. (City of Carlsbad, n.d.). A webpage called Carlsbadistan which is dedicated to new, events, and all things Carlsbad, stated that city of Carlsbad had been awarded for the 11th time the GFOA during 2009, with this CAFR dating June, 30 2011, this award would be the 12th award received by the city.
The Introductory section concludes with a list of the city’s elected officials, leadership team, chairpersons, commissions and boards, and finally an organization chart of electorate. I found the introductory section and the information presented to be very well put, educational, easy to read and follow, the statistical numbers presented in the economic section, the cash management and investments were informative. This city has earned the 12th GFOA awards received, because they simplified yet very complex information that is presented year after year in the CAFR.
The financial section of the CAFR for the city of Carlsbad lists and analyzes the components of financial information for the city, which helps the reader understand the financial condition of the city for the year ended and the projected budgetary for the following year. This section includes Independent Auditors’ report, Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A), and financial analysis of the city’s funds. The Independent Auditors’ report main purpose is to examine the financial information presented in the city’s financial statements. The independent auditors concluded the city’s governmental activities, business-type activities, and each major fund was represented in a fair matter, also in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles as of June 30, 2011. MD&A part includes an overview of financial statements, with a chart of the statements, is informative about the type of financial statements such as Government-Wide financial statements (“which are intended to provide aggregated overview of a government’s net assets and changes in net assets”) (Wilson, E.R., Reck, J.L., & Kattelus), and fund financial statements. Despite this, I thought it breaks down and simplifies the purpose of these statements in financial reporting.
Particularly in the Changes the net assets section offered a general overview of revenues and expenses from 2010-2011, with 11.5% decline from previous year, 2011 revenue is 217.2 (Governmental activities 152.4 and Business-type activities), while expenses 26.1 had an increase of 1.4 %( Governmental activities 21.8 and Business activities 4.3). The chart for sources of revenue can be found in this section, the following are the sources of revenue for fiscal year 2010-2011 amounted to $217.2 Million, the breakdown was as followed: Contributions from property owners 11%, property taxes 26%, income from property & investments 5%, other taxes 4%, sales taxes 4% federal aid 4%, and finally the biggest contributor to revenue was charges for services 31%(City of Carlsbad, n.d.)
The following is an overview of the Governmental and Business- type activities on page 25. Governmental activities had an increase in net assets of $21.8 Million, the increase was generated by total revenues of governmental activities of $ 152.2 Million ( $42.7 million in program revenues and $109.5 million in general revenues) offset by $130.3 million in total costs of governmental activities and $ 135,000 transfer to the solid waste fun ( City of Carlsbad, n.d.) And for those who are visual learner like me, here is the visual aid to show the breakdown of the Governmental activities program revenues and expenses (City of Carlsbad, n.d.)
Business-type Activities components are water, golf course, wastewater, and solid waste, for these program revenues totaled $56.5 million for the year, and functional expenses $60.8 million(City of Carlsbad, n.d.). Financial Analysis of the city’s funds provides information regarding Governmental funds and Proprietary funds. Governmental funds are near-term, inflows, outflows and balances of spendable resources that are essential for assessing the city’s financing requirements. Under the Governmental funds one can find the General fund statement of revenue, expenditures, and changes in fund balance, the city’s revenue and expenditure for 2011 were as followed; Revenues saw an increase of 2.6% from previous year, total $111.6 Million, largest element of the revenue was taxes at $95.5 Million. Whereas Expenditures largest element was public safety $44.2 Million, total expenses were 102.1 an there was an increase 1.0%. Ending fund balance in the statement was $130.4Million (City of Carlsbad, n.d.).
As for the purpose Proprietary Funds in addition to operating revenues and expenses, is to provide short and long term financial information about the city’s Business-type activities, the operating revenues were $35.1 Million which exceeded operating expenses that were $747,000, this increase was due to the increase in water sales revenue to rates (City of Carlsbad, n.d.). This increase has a bitter sweet side to it, in one hand in revenue is a sign that the city is doing great under light of this depressive economy, on the other hand citizens of this could use a break from these increasing rates. Before moving on to the statements the city listed the contact information for the city’s financial management for questions about CAFR.
Notes to financial Statements begin on page 59 of the report, it includes when the city was incorporated, a description and scopes of the reporting entity which have several components, I consider it a great way of presenting a conclusion for the report, it presents some of the information presents earlier in the report, such as Governmental wide and fund financial statements, the notes states why they reported and how they were reported. Also lists the type of the governmental funds included in the report such as general funds, and redevelopment debt service funds, as a reader I appreciated how each of these funds were defined and actually listed. In addition a list of the enterprise fund were introduced in this section, describing what they are for example Carlsbad municipal water district, golf course, waste water, and so on, and where are those funds allocated.
Overview of the city’s financing over the past 10 fiscal years shows that the city has been doing great, and is experiencing a growth considering the tough economic situation the country has been facing, looking at the total net assets supports that growth. In 2002, city of Carlsbad had $740,000 in total net assets, while in 2011 the total net assets were $17Million (Carlsbad CAFR 2011, 120) I think one of the main reasons the economy in this city is holding up relatively well, is due to the housing market, the city location is the main factor why a lot of home buyers gravitate towards it.
The CAFR for the city of Carlsbad was exceptionally interesting, informative, and easy to read and follow. Now wonder this city has earned the GFOA for consecutive 12 years. The introductory, financial and statistical sections had graphs and charts to explain and show how funds for this city was spent, which greatly helped the visual learners in the public to grasp the complicated accounting components of the report.