Harbor Island with the San Diego Skyline in the background. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The fiscal health of every city in San Diego County was rated as only moderately at risk or better in a new report by the California State Auditor.

The report released Thursday found that the cities of Compton in Los Angeles County, Atwater in Merced County, Blythe in Riverside County, Lindsay in Tulare County and Calexico in Imperial County are facing the greatest fiscal risk.

By contrast, in San Diego County, the cities of Chula Vista, Escondido, Oceanside and San Diego were found to face moderate risk, but all others were considered to be at low risk.

For San Diego, pension funding and reserve levels stood out as issues leading to moderate risk. It ranked 61st among California cities, but Los Angeles came in considerably worse at 32 and was almost in the high-risk category.

The complete results, which are shown on an interactive map, are available online.

“For the first time Californians will be able to go online and see a fiscal health ranking for more than 470 cities based across the state,” said State Auditor Elaine M. Howle. “This new transparent interface for the public, state and local policy makers, and other interested parties is intended to identify cities that could be facing significant fiscal challenges.”

Using publicly available information, the auditor’s office used various financial indicators to assess the fiscal health of cities, including those that determine if a city can pay its bills; the city’s level of debt; whether the city has reserves; how the city’s revenue is trending; and if the city can pay retirement benefits.

“We assessed risk by performing various financial comparisons and calculations that could indicate the potential for fiscal distress, and we analyzed things such as a city’s cash position or liquidity, debt burden, fiscal reserves, revenue trends, and ability to pay for employee retirement benefits,” said Howle.

Her office will now send audit teams to get local officials’ perspective regarding the areas of concern.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.