Updated 1/13 7:01pm
Tallahassee residents will not be seeing a rebate in the mail for their utility bills.
City administrators say $8 million were left over from the city's electric utilities budget, which equals about $34 per household.
Commissioners previously voted to put that money in reserve.
But, Leon County commissioner Bill Proctor had asked city commissioners to refund that money to residents instead.
In Wednesday night's meeting, city commissioners upheld their decision, saying putting the money in reserve for future emergencies was the right thing to do.
Updated 1/11 6:28pm
In December, Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor requested a rebate to his constituents of $8 million in city overcharges.
Tuesday (1/11/11), the District One leader is following up on his demands with a second letter.
Angel Williams says she's thinking about moving after living in Tallahassee only about a month because of her $160 utility bill.
Williams said, "My first thought was, wow, that's high. I expected my first one to be a little lower because I hadn't used it for two weeks. I was honestly shocked when I got my bill."
Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor sent a letter to city commissioners asking them to give $8 million dollars in overages back to residents.
Proctor said, "We have turned our piggy banks upside down; upside down in order to pay the City of Tallahassee, that pays no taxes on nothing that they purchase in the State of Florida, and yet they cannot give a competitive rate. I want our money back."
The city's overall electric utility budget is about $360 million.
City officials say that $8 million left at the end of the year is 2.3 percent of the electric utility budget, which is $34 a household.
Instead of refunding residents, the money goes into reserve.
As far as why some utility bills are so high, City Commissioner Andrew Gillum says it's because the city doesn't use coal, which he says is a cheaper fuel.
Gillum said, "The citizens said that they don't want it [coal.] So, what we ended up using to generate electricity in this community is natural gas. When the price goes up at the pump, it goes up in our homes as well."
A city spokesperson says it is city policy to put the year-end balance in reserve.
Commissioner Gillum says the bigger discussion should be on unemployment and how to help local residents get jobs.
[UPDATE] 2:00PM --
Statement By Commissioner Bill Proctor
The City of Tallahassee is operating a share cropper system with its utility department that makes tenants out of many of its customers akin to the bad old days of southern sharecropping at its worse.
Upon learning of the 8 million dollar utility overcharges by the City of Tallahassee, I asked the City Commission to agenda this issue and not unilaterally decide to keep our money from their 100 million dollar reserve account.
On tomorrow, the City will take this matter up as an agenda item. Whether this is intentioned as window dressing to satisfy those who have said there was no public input is not clear. I have asked the City Commission to rebate the eight million dollars back to the voiceless and struggling utility taxpayers.
The City admits to overcharging its customers but insist it will keep the people’s money. I suppose this is their one way of forcing citizens of this community to buy local. I have asked the City to give the people their money back—in these hard economic times—by 1) rebate; 2) credit toward our utility bills or as a 3) check mailed to our addresses.
There are several problems related to the eight million dollar overcharges:
1) The City is operating a for profit government. This mind-set automatically functions against innocent citizens who believe government exist to provide a service in as economical and efficient manner possible. The City like any business is looking out for
themselves and lining their own so called government reserve accounts for their rainy day.
Here in the Frenchtown community, the census tract data reveals it is among the most economically challenged means in Tallahassee. Yet, in this poor area which is where the initial CRA-Community Redevelopment Area was established, it is here in this poor area the City takes in millions of poor people’s money. People here have less than 100 million dollars in their savings account and borrow and beg to pay the city utility fees while the City has over 100 million dollars in their accounts.
Government should not operate for a profit. If government did this, it could raise mileage rates on property year after year. Government across America is challenged to cut costs, to eliminate programs, to reevaluate its mission and same as taxpayers’ money.
2) City utility is a tax. All money accrued in excess of the operational needs to deliver the utility service is taxation without due process. Critical to seeing that the city utility fees are in reality a fundraiser to support the general operations of the city – is the need to see the regressive nature of the utility fees as taxes to support other government programs well beyond providing utility services to citizens.
Florida State University announced that their 40 million dollar annual utility bill is their third highest line item in their annual budget. What an incredible hardship that FSU incurs. Yet, in the Frenchtown community the utility bill is the first or second highest monthly cost for
people. It is also the third highest monthly cost for many people across the City.
3) Regressive Tax. The people with the least number of light bulbs in the ceiling are paying the highest utility bills. Over and over people whose homes have 5 or 6 light bulbs in the ceiling, pay equal to and more than those whose homes have 15 and 16 light bulbs in their ceiling. The smallest homes pay the most money for utilities.
4) Utility costs have hurt affordable housing markets. Countless numbers of people have purchased homes all over Gadsden and Wakulla counties specifically because of Tallahassee’s utility costs. This is particularly true in the category of affordable housing
(i.e. $175,000 and below).
5) The question is about fairness and rightness versus making the City’s 100 million dollar reserves richer. Some City officials have stated publicly that a refund would only be $34.00 per household. They seem to believe $34 somehow is insignificant to those who
empty their piggy banks to pay city utilities. I submit to you: $34 is a child’s school lunch money for two weeks. $34 is a co-payment
for a doctor’s visit. $34 is over a half tank of gas. $34 is food for a family of four. $34 is help toward a utility payment.
Wrongfully taking and wrongfully keeping over money because it is only $34 is a bully’s approach to taking people’s lunches and not giving it back. Just because the lunch bag only has baloney and peanut butter and jelly does not negate that our lunch was
wrongfully taken away. It may not be to City officials-but this is all we got to eat. I say give us back our lunch bag.
6) That the content inside our lunch bag is meager does not negate the wrongfulness of the city in taking our bags.
7) Since the city was not expecting eight million dollars, then why are they keeping it? Give us back our money—now!!
8) Unjust enrichment. These eight million undeserved dollars has been exacted unjustifiably. They City should not be rewarded for wrongfully appropriating eight million dollars. Where will this stop.
9) City Commission is the judge, jury and perpetrator of a wrongful taking. We the people are victims to a perpetration of injustice who will sit as their own judge and jury over their own wrongful act.
10) Citizen Utility Board. There is no independent body besides the City Commission who sets high rates that overcharges us, and then they alone sit in judgment of themselves to keep our money. Clearly, this situation illustrates our need for an independent utility board.
11) City utility department is a sharecropper system. The owner keeps the books and profits. I ask the City Commission to stop working against their taxpayers, voters and customers, but instead to show leadership, character and integrity in returning to s our wrongfully taken eight million dollars.
12) As a 501(3)(c) tax exempt government operation, the City pays no taxes on items they purchase nor on profits they make and keep. Still, most private companies provide much cheaper services. Why? It is because the tax exempt government seeks to make a tremendous profit.
Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor is holding a press conference about the City of Tallahassee's 8 million dollar surplus today. Eyewitness News has a reporter covering the event and will bring you more. Stay with WCTV for details.
Here is the release:
County Commissioner Bill Proctor will hold a press conference on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at the City Electric Office in the Renaissance Building located at 435 North Macomb Street. The news conference will begin at 10:00 a.m. Commissioner Proctor
in the name of Jesus Christ Son the Most High and Living God—will ask Mayor John Marks and the City Commissioners for the return of the people’s 8 million dollars.
Commissioner Proctor will describe how and why the City of Tallahassee utilities makes sharecropper out of its taxpayer customers. Commissioner Proctor will release a 10 point analysis citing problems related to the City’s overcharges and decision to keep the people’s money without their input. “There is a clear and present danger that the City’s sharecropping system perpetuates an injustice against taxpayer city utility customers” states Proctor.
The full release is attached