WASHINGTON-The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Bank Insurance Fund has been flirting with the reserve ratio target, but it has not fallen to the point that banks have been assessed a premium. FDIC Chairman Don Powell issued a recent Letter to Stakeholders stating that banks will not be assessed a premium in the first half of 2003. The FDIC’s recent letter for the last quarter of 2002 statistics shows that with a 1.25% reserve ratio at the end of the third quarter of 2002, the BIF’s insured deposits could grow up to 2.17% and not incur an assessment. The average fourth quarter growth rate from 1991 through 2001 was 1.19%, according to the FDIC. FDIC’s target reserve ratio is 1.25%, below which banks are charged an automatic 23 basis point premium. The banking lobby failed to push deposit insurance reform legislation through Congress last year that would have eliminated the 23 basis point premium and created a range for the reserve ratio, similar to the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. The key hang up in Congress was whether to increase deposit insurance coverage, for which credit unions were provided equal treatment in the bill. Other data from the FDIC demonstrated: * A 2003 operating budget 8% below 2002; * Examination of 829 well-managed, well-capitalized banks using new risk-focused procedures and reduced average exam time by more than 20%; * Resolution of 10 BIF institutions with assets of $2.5 billion at an estimated cost to the fund of $628 million and one Savings Association Insurance Fund institution with $50 million in assets at an estimated cost of $1 million; and * Continued partnerships with financial institutions, trade associations, and community organizations to promote and offer the financial education program, Money Smart, nationwide, among other items.