The Tallahassee Charter Review Committee has been meeting over the last two months with the charge of reviewing possible changes to the Tallahassee City Charter.
Among the issues that have been discussed is a separate regulatory board for the utility functions of the city.
After five months of research, including dozens of interviews with city employees and Tallahassee citizens, the facts seem to indicate that it is time to consider a separate utility authority.
A review of findings by Tallahassee Reports include:
1. City officials confirmed Tallahassee Reports’ finding that the citizens have spent approximately $150 million over the last three years due to the lack of fuel diversity.
2. City officials confirmed that the failure of Progress Energy to update transmission lines have restricted the ability of the City to import and export power, thus having a negative effect on electric rates.
3. Tallahassee Reports, through a public data request, verified that over the last three years no city commissioner or the city manager has provided a written communication to the Florida Public Service Commission, the Legislature, or the Governor’s Office asking for the transmission line problem to be addressed.
4. City officials confirmed that the $40 million investment in smart meters would only be cost-effective if 25% of residential households participate in variable pricing and load control. City officials acknowledge that there is little track record to indicate that these programs would be successful.
5. The EPER (the Green Department) was created by “re-allocating resources” associated with vacant positions from different functional areas across the city that totaled approximately $250-$300,000.
Why is a separate utility board needed?
First, Tallahassee is the largest city in the state of Florida that does not have a separate entity responsible for utility operations. Best practices would seem to indicate that such a move would be a good idea.
Second, currently one person -the City Manager- is responsible for budgeting and presenting policy proposals associated with over $800 million of city revenues. A separate utility board would decentralize this process, provide more accountability, and provide transparency with regard to utility finances.
Third, research by Tallahassee Reports indicates that current policy makers readily admit to pursuing environmental issues over lower electric rates. A separate utility board would have the mission of providing the most reliable and cost-effective electric rates as possible.