SUMMERVILLE -- The town keeps a lot of money in reserve in case of disasters. At times, its reserve has held more than half its annual $22 million budget.

When revenue was strapped in 2009 by the recession, Town Council thought it would have to move $1.3 million from the reserve to pay for more police and fire equipment. The reserve held so much money, the move could have been made without savings falling below the state recommended 20 percent of the budget. As it turned out, revenue made up the shortfall and no money was moved.

Even then, council members debated the wisdom of the move. The town carries a long memory for how town finances were crippled repairing the damage from the catastrophic Hurricane Hugo.

The town keeps a "fund balance," essentially a savings account, as well as disaster and capital improvements funds. The total current amount in the fund balance alone is more than $7.5 million, more than 35 percent of the budget.

Enough is enough, Mayor Bill Collins said. The set-aside money "is greater than most other municipalities across the state. We want to be conservative, but prudent."

Collins wants new initiatives to draw tourism revenue --items like a farmers market building and streetscape improvements to the historic downtown shopping district. He proposed a fund balance policy that draws down that 35 percent to the recommended 20 percent. The immediate benefit will be $2 million more in the upcoming 2012 budget, he said, without new taxes or fees.

This time, council agreed. The full council Finance Committee on Monday unanimously approved the policy.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744.