Florida municipalities have experienced a "slight improvement" in their overall financial state, and as a result more than half of cities could implement written policies to budget reserves for emergencies now, the Florida League of Cities said Tuesday.
In addition, most cities say they offer some type of economic development incentive — most often expedited permitting — in a bid to attract greater economic growth.
The state of municipal finance and incentives are among the topics of the inaugural State of the Cities report issued by the League's Center for Municipal Research and Innovation. The report is based on statewide data from a 2012 CityStats Survey.
"For the first time in several years, Florida's municipalities are showing signs of improvement," said Florida League President Manny Marono, the mayor of Sweetwater. "Our cities were particularly hard-hit by unemployment and a beleaguered real estate market, so it's good to see that overall economic gains are working their way to the local level."
The report provides a comprehensive look at cities' current status in areas such as employment and economy, budgets, services, utilities, and public safety, Marono said.
Last year, Florida's population of 19 million was divided almost evenly between cities, towns or villages and those who live in unincorporated areas. The average Florida municipality is 78% developed, and more than one-third of cities are more than 90% built out, the report said.
The League report shows more municipalities are preparing for financial emergencies, such as hurricanes or other natural disasters, by budgeting for reserves.
Approximately 52% have adopted a written policy on budgeting for reserves, ensuring that they are saving a certain amount of money each year with defined policies that allow administrators to budget equal amounts each year.
Cities have also increased economic development incentives to attract new employers. The most common incentives were expedited permitting, followed by favorable land development regulations and tax breaks or incentives.