Jacksonville City Council member Matt Schellenberg

Council member's legislation targets proceeds of potential JEA sale

It would require a supermajority of council to spend the windfall.
By: 
Feb. 8, 2018

City Council member Matt Schellenberg introduced legislation Thursday that would require the 19-member body to place any proceeds from a possible JEA sale into a restricted account.

The legislation, 2018-101, states that for council to spend any of the funds, it would need the support of a supermajority, or 13 of the 19 council members.

Schellenberg’s legislation cites “concern over speculative immediate windfall of cash and the prudent expenditure of such cash is occurring,” as one reason for submitting it.

JEA is undergoing a financial audit of its assets at the direction of JEA board Chair Alan Howard.

The valuation precedes a potential debate among the mayor’s office, the public and council about whether to sell the public utility company.

Schellenberg’s bill also speaks to conversations about how the city would spend the revenue it would gain if JEA is sold, and how it would address the utility’s pension obligations, infrastructure commitments and “other potential obligations,” including an estimated outstanding debt of $4 billion.

A draft of the audit by JEA financial adviser, Public Financial Management, was released Wednesday and does not provide a value for the utility other than there is potentially a wide gap between a low- and high-end offer in the billions.

“A privatization of the JEA enterprise would likely represent the largest and most complex municipal privatization in the United States,” the report states.

The analysis indicates that while the sale of JEA’s electric, water and sewer, and district energy assets would provide “substantial up-front net proceeds to the city,” it is likely to be “an enormously complex undertaking” that would “have quantifiable impacts on future taxes and payments received by the city and other governmental jurisdictions.”

JEA spokeswoman Gerri Boyce said Wednesday that the final version of the analysis is not on the JEA board’s Feb. 20 meeting.

The report’s findings could be released in March.