Is there a refund on the way for Jacksonville residents paying for suspended recycling services?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville resident Paul Lynn said he comes to the recycling drop-off site at Castaway Island Preserve once a week.

“As far as I’m concerned I’m happier doing this than having them come by on an every other week basis because it’s just easier for me to not have it pile up over that period of time,” Lynn said.

As long as he’s making the trip himself, he asked, why should he continue paying for recycling?

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“It does seem like we ought to get the money back,” Lynn said.

Action News Jax first told you in October when the city suspended its recycling services.

It’s been just over three months residents have had to do without recycling altogether. They’re either tossing it to the curb with trash or doing it themselves like Lynn.

However, on that monthly bill, residents are still paying $12.65 for household garbage, yard waste and recycling.

We asked the city if there are any plans or discussions to refund or rebate residents.

Officials said the city collects approximately $3.5 million a month for residential solid waste collection.

However, they said the solid waste enterprise fund already runs at a multi-million-dollar deficit each year, and refunding those dollars would have a negative impact on the already stressed finances.

They said a refund may have to be taken from elsewhere in the budget, including federal COVID-19 relief dollars.

We also reached out to all 14 district city council members and asked if there was a plan to discuss refunds.

Council member Al Ferrero said word should come from the mayor’s office about a potential proposal at the beginning of Tuesday’s city council meeting. He also said there is a notice meeting scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m. for council members to hear more about the idea.

“I am certainly supportive of getting our recycling back on track for pick up on a weekly basis. I was against refunding money under the understanding that recycling would be started up soon. Recycling pickup has stopped over 6 months ago. I am still of the opinion recycling must start immediately. If that doesn’t seem to be the case then charging taxpayers without providing them service it’s something I will not be able to support. A refund would be in order if there is no solution soon,” Ferraro said in a statement.

Lynn said any amount of money back is worth it.

Council member Michael Boylan said he hasn’t received any indication a resolution regarding a refund to citizens will be introduced.

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We asked the city about refunding 1/3 of the bill since trash and yard waste pickup is still ongoing. We did not hear back, nor did we hear back from the 12 other council members.

Read the city’s full response to our questions below:

CONSIDERATION OF REFUNDS

  • COJ collects approximately $3.5 million per month for residential solid waste collection.
  • The Solid Waste enterprise fund already runs at a multi-million-dollar deficit each year that requires a general fund loan to that fund in each year’s budget.
  • The average monthly amount per household for those households serviced by the contract haulers and COJ solid waste pickups is $12 per month.
  • A $12 per month rebate to citizens would therefore add another $3.5 million per month to the solid waste enterprise fund deficit.
  • Taking additional dollars from the fund would have a negative impact on the already stressed system and simply add an additional problem to collection efforts.
  • To avoid impacting the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund, the money would have to be taken either from General Fund, which potentially stresses the city’s credit worthiness, or would need to be taken from additional priorities in the budget that was approved by City Council and the Mayor effective Oct. 1.
  • Another option for the source of refunds would be federal Covid relief dollars that are already budgeted elsewhere. As you know, at the previous Council meeting you approved $4 million of that federal money for solutions, and that is the source for the regional recycling collection bin pickups, the yard waste transfer location, and additional work that we are currently considering that would expedite the collection catch up in the weeks and months ahead.