Editorial: Finally, good money news

In addition to the massive crowds that have descended upon the city's beaches and art festivals, two other positive economic indicators have surfaced for Laguna Beach.

City officials are very pleased that Laguna Beach posted the second-highest property value increases in Orange County, as reported by the Assessor's office. Instead of the predicted zero percent increase in valuations, and hence, property taxes, the city logged 1.89% higher property assessment than last year.

This isn't much, but it's a step in the right direction, and means the city won't have to use as much of its Recession Smoothing Account to tide the city budget over this fiscal year, which is from July 1 to June 30, Manager Ken Frank announced.

Laguna Beach has fared better in property values than surrounding cities, with Irvine, Laguna Hills and even Dana Point posting in the negative, Frank reported. Newport Beach had an increase of .27%. Fountain Valley had the highest property value assessment increase in the county — 3.13%. This is a far cry from the heady days of double-digit increases, but that bubble has burst.

Property values are also paramount for the Laguna Beach Unified School District, which, as a basic aid district, gets its funding directly from the county, not from the state, as do nearly all other school districts.

The school district is going into the new school year in good financial shape, a far cry from the woeful condition of most others, where huge layoffs have resulted in turmoil and hardship. New Supt. of Schools Sherine Smith won't have to make those agonizing decisions about what programs to cut or keep, and parents can send their children to school in September assured that the excellent education and programs they enjoyed last year will be intact.

In other positive fiscal news, South Lagunans won't see their water or sewer rates rise this year, as had been expected due to increased water costs for the South Coast Water District.

If the positive trends translate into visitors opening their wallets while they enjoy the city's natural beauty and art offerings this festival season, Laguna Beach's merchants and artists should be in for a sunny summer.

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