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City Retains $9 Million in Excess Garbage Fees

Posted on August 19, 2015

City Retains $9 Million in Excess Garbage Fees

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.

13 Responses to City Retains $9 Million in Excess Garbage Fees

  1. Preston Scott

    Preston Scott Reply

    August 19, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    I have been trying to get this point across for more than two or three years. The City renegotiated its agreement with Waste Pro when the County signed with Waste Pro and severed its relationship with Waste Management. The County passed along a great deal to residents allowing them to pay much less. The City got a huge discount in its new deal but KEPT the difference and DID NOT pass it along to city residents and citizens never knew the difference because the City handles billing (unlike the County where Waste Pro bills directly). The City government views itself as a private sector middle man keeping the “mark up” difference for itself. Folks…this was orchestrated by the City Manager and Commissioners never looked deeper. Perhaps now, due to this report, Commissioners will reconsider. Please add up all of the money that the City siphons off of its citizens…millions and millions every year snatched out of the private sector and feeding a wasteful, prideful local government. It’s time to stop it.

  2. Lee Snowden Reply

    August 19, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    And we need a property tax increase for???
    We should be getting a millage rate decrease labeled “garbage credit”.

    Seems to be quite a few millions of extra dollars between this and “your own utilities” deposit surplus.

  3. Hope & Change Reply

    August 19, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    “The City Staff was unresponsive”. I am SHOCKED!
    the sad reality is the staff will only respond to a lawsuit and/or a deposition under oath,and you still may not get the truth. This is, I am sure, only the tip of the iceberg.
    You must ask who knew about this? City Auditor? City Treasure? City Commissioners?
    I think TR found one of the City Manager’s Slush Funds, it is not a reserve fund. This raises more questions.
    I say fire all of them. Dismantle this huge bureaucracy and start over.
    I am hopeful for change.

  4. Arthur Kirby Reply

    August 19, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    While I agree more explanation is warranted, I don’t necessarily agree it’s a bad thing being fiscally conservative with that amount being placed into the general fund, or reserved accounts.

    There are two things that have worried me for some time. First, these Summer storms are a drain on resources. Under the theory of dollar cost averaging, aren’t these funds appropriate for clean up, infrastructure maintenance and repair needs?

    I want to point out one other thing… I am disappointed your readers have such short memories. Has it been that long ago when Capital Circle Northeast had 3 major underground sewer lines literally explode underneath them? Even though fiscal responsibilities fell on the States, and DOT, expeditious repairs were accomplished by the City. I did not hear complaint from individuals or businesses then when transportation and sanitary infrastructure was fixed and usable within days, rather than weeks or months.

    I also want to remind readers how fortunate we have been on the hurricane front. Our luck WILL run out. Having surpluses held back… well… I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing… at least not on the surface based solely on a topical finding. No, I choose to wait and reserve judgement until the larger picture is fairly available for evaluation.

    Preston… Steve… I will be one of the first to admit, you both are doing our town a service by peeling back on the layers of political “muck” where mainstream media has failed us. PLEASE don’t stop being dogged and tenacious?! And will also ask you both to please keep it fair, complete and balanced? Logically, there has to be much more to this story. I want to learn about this too… Do you?

    • Preston Scott

      Preston Scott Reply

      August 19, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Arthur, I thank you for the kind words. Steve is a fair journalist. Sadly, the facts from public record almost always reveal the same thing. The City Manager and her staff have been reckless and irresponsible and in some areas (deferred comp) perhaps worse. I wish I could see a silver lining, but there has been too much deception, too much unethical conduct, too much money taken out of the local economy. In this case I come to the conclusion I have through a simple question: If the purpose for retaining money for some noble then why was it not disclosed years ago? Mind you, I still would disagree. If there were some calamity we all pitch in and pay – either directly or through our insurance. The City has no justification for keeping the excess money. The City has proven time and again (though Commissioner Ziffer has consistently questioned staff recommendations) that it cannot be trusted. Why not allow residents to be billed directly from Waste Pro like the County?

  5. Steve Reply

    August 19, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Why does this ( surplus) surprise anyone. This city continues to mismanaged its funds. Something sure doesn’t smell right. I believe tough questions need to be asked why the surplus was not passed to the customer.

  6. Chris Reply

    August 19, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    To consider that the city is fiscally conservative is one thing, however, over charging you for a specific service to pay for something other than that service is another issue. What does it take for the citizens of this city to wake up and realize we are being fleeced over and over and over again? I am beginning to believe that (like the federal government) it has become hopeless to make a change in my corrupt local government.

  7. Vic Aderhold

    Vic Aderhold Reply

    August 19, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    All I have to say is…….well, what Preston said.

  8. Rockie Springer Reply

    August 19, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    People do not get it. If no one had discovered these “hidden” funds, they would have gone into private pockets. Look up CAFR. Learn. Find out what they are up to….

  9. Doris Geohagan Reply

    August 20, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    Enough is enough. WHEN will the citizens of the City of Tallahassee realize errors of their ways?? THE CITY OF TALLAHASSEE elected officials and their appointees are a bunch of LIARS only out for themsrlves. It’s time to CLEAN HOUSE in the City Government.

  10. Donald Duck Reply

    August 21, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Citizens of Tallahasee need to get some new commissioners. These people are ripping you off.

  11. Beth Overholt Reply

    August 22, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Wow! This is mismanagement of funds at best. Thank you to Steve Stewart and Tallahassee Reports for getting this information. We certainly wouldn’t have found out from that other newspaper in town, which is only good for wrapping fish. I just hope more people wake up to the huge problems we have down town.

  12. rich Reply

    September 1, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Every other city I have lived in passes these funds to the taxpayers as rebates.

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