Tallahassee Reports has learned that the City of Tallahassee has been transferring unused fees paid by citizens for garbage service to a reserve fund, that as of June of this year, totals $9,026,743.
According to budget documents, the reserve fund has increased from $3.9 million in June 2009 to the current level of $9 million.
This information comes amid a move by the City of Tallahassee to raise property taxes by 23%.
The total budget for the Solid Waste fund is a approximately $23 million, which means the fund has approximately 40% in reserves.
Why such a large reserve?
Tallahassee Reports checked with a number of other local governments and found none that maintained such a high reserve for garbage service. Also, Leon County government told Tallahassee Reports they have no reserve for solid waste.
What is the City’s response?
City staff has been unresponsive to recent requests on budget matters.
In addition, Tallahassee Reports also found records that show that the City of Tallahassee has used an additional $8.1 million in unused garbage fees since 2011 to pay for General Fund expenditures.
Why is there so much excess revenue in the Solid Waste Fund?
The City of Tallahassee re-negotiated their contract with Waste Pro which resulted in lower rates by approximately 15% back in 2013.
However, instead of passing on any of the savings to the customer, the City of Tallahassee’s monthly rate for garbage services actually increased from $16.98 per month to a level of $17.23 per month. In contrast, the Leon Board of County Commissioners chose to pass the savings on to Waste Pro customers.
It appears that the increase in reserves and the transfers to the General Fund were, at least partly, made possible by the savings in the new contract that were not passed through to customers.
TR will continue to seek answers.