With the Tallahassee City Commission taking a serious look at raising taxes and cutting services, Tallahassee Reports – and a number of other interested citizens – have begun to dig into the proposed 2010 budget.
Tallahassee Reports has focused its analysis on the City’s “Reserve Accounts.” The City has reserve accounts for the General Fund, Electric Fund, Gas Fund, Water Fund, Sewer Fund, Airport Fund, and Solid Waste Fund.
Per City Commission policies, these funds are surplus revenues that are collected and saved “as protection against unforeseen financial risk or as a means of reducing the future cost of services or projects (COT Policy 224.04(8)).”
The total amount of surplus revenues in all reserve accounts is $172,240,900 as of March 31, 2009. The major component of this total is surplus revenues in the electric fund, which totals $108,836,700.
Included in the Electric Fund is a “Long-Term Rate Stabilization” category which contains approximately $95,000,000. This category has increased from $79,000,000 in June 2005. This fund is designed to “provide stable rates in recognition of swings in revenue requirements.”
Tallahassee Reports researched the level of the Rate Stabilization Fund for the Gainesville Regional Utility (GRU), a utility that has about 10% less revenues than the COT utility. The findings indicate that GRU has a $50 million reserve while COT has a $95 million reserve.
The Fiscal Year 2010 Proposed Budget indicates that the use of accumulations in the Long Term Rate Stabilization Reserve is to be determined by the City Commission.
The obvious question becomes can the City of Tallahassee avoid tax increases and maintain appropriate service levels by using revenues already collected from taxpayers?