League City’s “Long Range Financial Forecast” is out, and, if you like economic growth, it’s good news.
This year’s forecast, which covers fiscal years 2014-18, says: “League City is experiencing a sudden surge in growth that is similar to the growth taking place in the Houston area at large.”
Economic growth in League City has averaged 2.2 percent to 2.3 percent the past two fiscal years. It’s expected to hit 3.3 percent this fiscal year and stay at 3.1 percent in fiscal 2014.
The forecast calls for growth at 2.6 percent to 2.8 percent from fiscal 2015 to fiscal 2018, but that’s a conservative estimate. The spurt in growth could easily extend beyond fiscal 2014, according to the report.
To put those numbers in perspective, from 2002 to 2008, League City boomed. Then the Great Recession hit, along with job cuts at Johnson Space Center. Growth in League City slowed to 1 percent to 1.5 percent. Given that history, you can see how a forecast of 3.3 percent growth this year should be a relief to people in business.
There’s another point to make about League City’s forecast. It has been accurate.
Mike Loftin, who is now city manager, has a background in finance and came to League City with the reputation for using financial models to accurately predict revenue.
All cities in Galveston County forecast their revenues as part of their budget processes. But those forecasts range from guesses in the wind to sophisticated models that include many variables.
In League City, this means there is less variance between what was budgeted and what actually comes in. There are fewer surprises today than there were years ago.
The report is a good model. Some of League City’s neighbors would do well to copy it.
A city government that is good at forecasting revenues probably is good at watching expenses — which means making sure that they are rational.
From 2000 to 2013, League City’s population grew from about 45,400 to 90,700, or 5.6 percent per year. The city’s staff grew from 350 to 554, or 3.6 percent per year.
Galveston, which has a population of about 48,000, listed 722 employees in its fiscal 2011-12 budget, and the previous council made cuts. When the new council was seated last year, it added $1 million in new payroll for the police department. There was no discussion on costs or long-term financial impact, just the usual rhetoric about getting tough on crime and supporting the police.