NEW PORT RICHEY — City officials likened recent good news on city finances to a ray of sunshine cutting through dark clouds.
The 2008 financial crisis ushered in grim news for New Port Richey City Council members. Property values fell, resulting in less tax revenue. Debt was mounting from projects through the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. Debt payments might wind up spilling over into the general fund, officials feared.
Predictions in 2012 called for an economic “tsunami” to swamp city coffers this year, Councilman Bill Phillips recalled.
Before he was elected to the city council, “I was told we were in dire straits,” Councilman Jeff Starkey said. “Paying off debt was key.”
So the general fund could wind up with one of its largest surpluses for the past fiscal year, Peter Altman, the city’s finance and human resources director, said.
Preliminary audit results show about $1.34 million left over from the 2013 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, Altman reported.
Debt payments decreased because the city paid off two of the four loans, thanks to leveraging the utility fund, Altman said. That reduced the CRA shortfall to $993,519.
“We feel confident,” Altman said, the shortfall can be handled without dipping into general fund tax revenue.
Since the city gets a share of Penny for Pasco sales tax revenue, the city wound up with $3.8 million on hand as of Sept. 30. Altman anticipates an additional $1.2 million in the current fiscal year.
“The substantial increase in cash position for the city is in part due to surpluses from operations,” Altman wrote in a memo to council members.
Altman attributed much of the surplus, however, to a “lack of capital asset investment” as the city has not been active with its street improvement funds, stormwater funds or Penny for Pasco revenue.
“We’re certainly not completely out of the woods yet,” Altman said at the March 18 council meeting.