In a recent letter by JEA’s Interim CEO Aaron Zahn (a supporter of Mayor Curry) addressed to the JEA board and city officials he believes…the BULK of the proceeds from a $18.5 million land sale should be DONATED to the City.
Yes you read that right. Donated instead of paying back JEA (that would be us – the ratepayers) for the costs incurred with the clean up of the 30-acre site of the former Southside Generating Station.
REMINDER: This land sale mentioned by Mr. Zahn is the same land involved in a big giveaway of subsidies for The District development that Eye has been reporting on. The District developer is also one of Mayor Curry’s biggest supporters.
But we digress so let’s move on to Mr. Zahn’s appeal for your money to be donated to the City.
Mr. Zahn stated in his letter,“I believe this proposal is illustrative of the type of leadership and innovation JEA needs to undertake as we seek to move JEA toward the concept of being a ‘utility of the future.”
So Zahn’s idea of a “utility of the future” is to GIVE the City more money.
Zahn wants approximately $16 million from the sale to be used for initiatives like septic tank removal and extending water infrastructure.
Isn’t that just fine and dandy but there’s one thing Mr. Zahn failed to review. You see, my fellow ratepayers, JEA already did that and more:
- JEA already provides among one of the highest percentage transfer rates to local governments of all municipal utilities in the nation when considering all internal transfers and taxes and fees on utility bills.
- In recent negotiations with City Council which takes place every five years, the transfer was INCREASED plus JEA already agreed to provide an additional $15 Million for septic tank phase out.
- JEA also agreed to provide water quality credits to the City to meet the City’s portion of the state’s environmental requirements for cleanup of the St. John’s River. JEA banked the credits by going beyond their own state requirements for nitrogen removal from the river from wastewater plant discharge at considerable cost. It would have been an even higher cost to the City to perform its own cleanup.
Eye wants to know: How much is enough?
Should JEA sell other assets or dip into its reserves to provide more funds to the City for what are considered “good community projects?”
What did the City do with the money JEA already gave them for these projects?
Here’s the truth of the matter. JEA is required by its charter to provide a transfer of funds to the City. It is not really a negotiation because:
- City Council holds all the power;
- It can make the transfer when it wants; and
- It can even modify the JEA charter.
With all that power, the City Council, the JEA Board and the JEA CEO need to be aware of is this:
Bond rating agencies do keep an eagle eye on transfer amounts because it affects the bottom line. Once the transfer is revised, at least it is set for the next five years and worked into revenue/expense projections. But when additional funds are transferred beyond the bounds of the charter, it changes projections and makes one wonder what else might JEA do with its funds.
Let’s just keep things simple.
In the world of accounting…if you have an expense, you find income to offset it. The $27 Million for demolition and cleanup of the Southside Generation Station was an expense to JEA. The money came from somewhere – but not just anywhere. It came from JEA ratepayers.
We, the JEA ratepayers, would appreciate it if those running the utility would offset that expense with the income generated by the sale of the land to The District. That’s just good business sense and it’s your job.
Anything less than that would stink to high heaven and appear to be political in nature.