Jacksonville, FL (December 8, 2020) – City Council at its final meeting for calendar year 2020, voted on Bill 2020-696 as an Emergency which was a Resolution to notify the appropriate local authorities, including the State as a first step to increasing the Garbage Fee that had to be submitted prior to December 31, 2020. Council Member Becton was one several council members who lead to oppose this resolution which the discussion described this bill as a potential tax increase for the county. The Bill ultimately failed to be taken up as an Emergency 16-3, therefore, the calendar year-end deadline would not be made.
According to the bill summary, “the bill reaffirms the City’s intention to continue using the non-ad valorem special assessment mechanism to bill for solid waste collection and disposal services and directs the Legislative Services Division to send copies of the adopted resolution to the Property Appraiser, the Tax Collector, and the State of Florida Department of Revenue, Property Tax Oversight Division.”
The history of this garbage fee began in 2010 when the City Council at that time chose to utilize the non-ad valorem special assessment mechanism to levy a solid waste user fee as a line item on the property tax bill to pay for collection and disposal of residential curbside collection of solid waste and recyclables. During the 2020 budget hearings the Finance Committee discussed the insufficiency of the current user fee to cover the full costs of the solid waste enterprise fund and the possibility of increasing the assessment was suggested. Increasing a non-ad valorem special assessment is a multi-step process governed by Florida Statute and by the Ordinance Code.
During the December 8th council meeting, Councilman Becton stood up amongst his colleges and stated the following:
“This bill is similar to the decision we made before when we voted on the Pre-Budget TRIM Notice back in August of this year. It is often expressed If you pass it, you will spend it when debate is made to set a higher millage rate vs. holding the millage rate the same.
This issue is about government’s role and responsibilities. Fees for all property owners are nothing more than TAXES whether it’s Ad-Valorem or Fees. They both are on the Property Tax Bill.
Going back to 2010, when the City Council then, decided that the Garbage expense which is funded as an essential service of government by the General Fund was changed to an Enterprise Fund. You would have to believe that perhaps in its passage it might was perceived that citizens of our County would not know the difference and accept this change. Unfortunately, for those that thought this, the Citizens of Jacksonville that I encountered during my City Council Campaign of 2011, more than understood. They made is very clear that this was a “Tax Increase” and they were very unhappy about it.
I was constantly asked about this and when prompted to know my position, I promised constituents that if elected, I would 1) not support this as an Enterprise Fund and 2) I would not support future increases in this fee.
We subsidize such funds like the Sports/Entertainment fund to the tune of way north of $10-15 Million dollars but do not fund essential services like waste pickup by the General Fund.
I respectfully reject the Finance Chairs assertion that it is editable that TAXES WILL BE RAISE as a result of the Garbage Expense. Taxes are always seemly going up as property values do rise. As a result, since my tenure on Council, our budget has increase between 300 – 350 million dollars! It’s amazing that when we need funds, we find funds. The argument for the justification of the August TRIM notice instead of getting it increased, somehow found $2.8m dollars without raising the millage rate.
To that end, for the past 5 years, the General Fund has funded the deficits in this Enterprise Fund for our Garbage Expenses. As a result, I suspect of not wanting to raise this FEE (and again perception that this would-be raising Taxes) this Council has not addressed this issue and has kicked the can down the road and designate the funding as a LOAN. Let me also point out, no funding has been actually borrowed for this loan.
Again, if you want to go down this road and raise taxes, COUNT ME OUT! There are obviously funds to pay for this essential service and as a former Council member John Crescimbeni once told us about future voter on an issue for which was unpopular, Good Luck with you next election.”
In the City of Jacksonville, residential garbage and recycle pickup expenses are included within the property assessments as a Garbage Fee which is currently $12.65 per month or $151.80 annually. The account for which Garbage is managed is setup as an “Enterprise Fund” which implies that the account will have a separate source of income to cover the expenses incurred. Over the last 5 years, the revenue annually of approximately $40m has been collected but is short in order to cover those expenses incurred and as a result, a subsidy from the General Revenue Fund has been necessary. As reported by the Council Auditor’s office, this Enterprise Fund has been subsidized in the amount of $27,930,404. At the end of FY 2020/21 the deficit amounted to $8,750,000. As to the requirements of this Enterprise Fund type account, the subsidy is described as a Loan, with the idea, future fees will be increased to cover any shortfalls.