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Muni-bond investors can't count on cities for financial information

April 18, 2011 | 12:46 pm

Given the fiscal woes of city governments, it’s more important than ever for taxpayers and municipal-bond investors to get accurate and reliable financial data.

But only a handful of U.S. cities post useful financial information about themselves on their websites, according to a new study.

Of the 75 largest U.S. cities, only a dozen offer detailed and up-to-date data, according to the study by Yonghong Wu, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and MuniNetGuide, a research firm specializing in public finance and municipal bonds.

Although many cities post their annual financial reports, less than 30% provide additional data, such as current credit ratings, details about individual bond issues and information on the ability to make bond payments, according to the study.

Of the top 12 cities, four are in California. San Diego’s website had the best overall information, according to the study. Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco also made the list.

"If we were to identify an exemplary city investor relations website, San Diego would be it," the study said. "Clearly designed with the bondholder in mind, the recently redesigned portal is comprehensive, yet unintimidating -– a tough balancing act that few issuers are able to achieve."

Here are the websites for the California cities:
-- San Diego: http://www.sandiego.gov/investorinformation/terms.shtml
-- Los Angeles: http://cao.lacity.org/debt_mgmt/index.htm
-- Oakland: http://www.oaklandnet.com/government/fwawebsite/treasury/treasury_home.htm
-- San Francisco: http://www.sfcontroller.org/index.aspx?page=288

-- Walter Hamilton

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