Pay-as-you-go garbage fee contemplated by city

PAY AS YOU GO for government services can be a hard policy to implement. For instance, how would you determine how much to charge each city resident for their use of city streets, police and fire services, parks and recreation, and more?

One area, though, where at least in the city of Plymouth there is a way to calculate the individual cost of service is residential garbage collection.

The city contracts with Advanced Disposal to provide residential garbage collection service, and that contract is based on a set fee per household.

The city recently signed a 10-year contract extension for residential garbage collection that keeps the same rate for the first three years - $10.45 per month per household – then increases it 2.5 percent a year for the remainder of the contract.

For many years, the city covered the cost of residential garbage collection in the annual city budget, providing what amounted to free garbage collection for city residents.

That changed, however, in 2012, when the city added a $24 garbage collection fee ($2 a month) and a $28.50 recyclable collection fee to residential property tax bills.

At the same time, the city dropped the last of its subsidies for business, commercial and industrial garbage collection and forced those customers to pay their own – and in most cases, negotiate their own contract – for garbage collection.

It’s a route a majority of the county’s cities, towns and villages have already gone to, as have many municipalities throughout the state and the nation.

Now the city is looking to gradually increase the garbage and recycling fee over the 10 years of the new Advanced contract until, by the end of the contract, city residents are paying the full cost of the collection on their annual property bills – estimated to be about $150 a year by the year 2026.

The plan has been approved by the City

Council’s Finance and Property Committee and will be going to the full council for their consideration.

City Administrator Brian Yerges pointed out to the committee that business, commercial and industrial taxpayers are currently subsidizing residential taxpayers for their garbage collection, while paying the full cost of their own garbage collection.

State law requires that any increase the city receives from increased residential garbage fees on the property tax bill must be offset by an equal reduction in the property tax levy, which could help ease the blow at least a little bit for residential taxpayers.

But it won’t be a strict dollar-for-dollar match between the garbage fee increase and the tax levy (and rate) reduction – if there is one.

That’s because the garbage fee increase will apply only to residential taxpayers, while any possible tax levy decrease will be spread over all taxpayers – businesses and industries as well as residential property owners.

The bottom line is that homeowners will be paying more to the city to have their garbage collected. Free garbage collection has already gone the way of the free lunch in Plymouth and that could be even more true in the future.

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