Burgess Emergency Fund Ahead Of Schedule
By Samantha Joseph
Miami-Dade County’s 10-month-old emergency fund is set to reach $24.5 million by September 2005 and is likely to hit the $120 million target one year ahead of schedule, says County Manager George Burgess.
The county created its Emergency Contingency Reserve in September and is financing it with property-tax revenue that otherwise would flow into the county’s general fund.
One year after its creation, the fund will hold $11.3 million, Mr. Burgess said. The fund is set to more than double next year.
The emergency account is part of the manager’s effort to bring business practices to the public administration. It marked the first time the county had set aside reserves specifically for emergencies.
"Mostly, the things I’m particularly proud of have to do with financial management," Mr. Burgess said in summing up his first year in office.
The money would help the county’s bond rating and improve its credit rating. It is earmarked to be used only after natural disasters, unexpected revenue falloffs or other unusual circumstances, said budget coordinator Gus Knoepffler. Even then, the county manager, commission and budget and finance committee would have to approve an expenditure.
"This is the true definition of a contingency," Mr. Burgess said.
A better bond rating means better interest rates for the county, and there is a chance the fund could affect financing for a $2.9 billion General Obligation Bond the county plans to put on the Nov. 2 General Election ballot.
Mr. Knoepffler would not say how immediate an effect on rates the emergency fund might offer.
When they launched the fund, county officials hoped it would grow to $120 million in eight years. Mr. Burgess said the fund should reach that by 2010.
"I think it’s important for any government, any business or any organization to have a financial reserve," he said. "It’s just fiscally responsible. It’s the right thing to do if we’re going to be responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ money."