There will come a day when our luck runs out and a hurricane hits the Tampa Bay area. That’s when prudent fiscal planning will pay off for those cities that keep a healthy amount of money in reserves for storms or other disasters.
St. Petersburg City Council member Jim Kennedy says he wants to restore as much as $8 million to the city’s reserves, which have been tapped in recent years to make ends meet during tough economic times. As he told Tribune reporter Christopher O’Donnell, “When you take money out of the savings account, you put it back.”
That’s sound policy that should be followed by Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City Council, which is expected to consider the city’s rainy day reserves at today’s meeting.
With tax receipts on the rebound, the city is positioned to put some of that money back. Kennedy is advocating a five-year plan to restore the reserves to 20 percent of the city’s $211 million general fund, a level considered healthy by a government standards board and conducive to keeping a good bond rating for borrowing money.
The reserves now stand at $34 million, which is more than 10 percent short of the desired level. Money to restore the fund could come from rising property tax revenues and trims to the budget. Since his election in November, Kriseman has talked about running St. Petersburg like a big city. He has hired an eight-member executive team that will cost the city $1.1 million in salaries and benefits. And his transition teams have suggested additional hires to foster economic development.
Before committing to any more spending, he should back the efforts to restore the reserves.