Not even a year ago, the city of Jacksonville was sideswiped by Hurricane Matthew: a mega storm that clipped Florida’s East Coast.
Power was out in some parts of town for close to a week, and even today, Jacksonville still awaits a big chunk of reimbursements from FEMA.
Of $50M in damage from the big storm of 2016, the city is still $26M in negative cash position due to unreimbursed storm damage post-Matthew; to put that number in perspective, it is roughly the cost of the city’s annual contribution to UF Health.
However, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is confident that, even with delayed reimbursements, the city can weather financial impacts from Matthew until federal money comes through … a key factor with Cat 5 Irma looming in the Caribbean, with eventual impact on Northeast Florida unknown at least for now.
Between cash and reserve levels (which, between the operating and emergency reserve, will be somewhere between $135 and $165M at the end of the fiscal year), Curry is confident the city is ready financially for Irma impacts.
And, as Tuesday’s mayoral briefing at the city’s Emergency Operations Center reveals, that readiness will be tested in the days and weeks ahead.
When asked if the city had sufficient resources for a major storm, in its roughly $150 million of reserve monies, Curry’s answer was an interesting one.
The city has “adequate reserves” for an impact created by a storm like Matthew, Curry said. However, a bigger impact — such as this year’s Harvey — would create decisions for policy makers.
“In the event of another Matthew, we have adequate reserves,” Curry said. “In the event of a — of a catastrophic event, we’ve got a budget, we’ve got priorities. Safety comes first, so if we ever had to realign priorities in an emergency situation, we would do just that.”