Will Tampa raise solid waste fees?

03/05/08 Seán Kinane
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Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio met with City Council members this morning to brief them on four of the city’s Enterprise Funds. They agreed to discuss a proposal by the Iorio administration that would raise fees for solid waste collection at tomorrow’s City Council.

The increased fees may be necessary because, according to Steve Daignault, Tampa’s administrator of Public Works and Utility Services, without any changes, revenue for the Solid Waste Department will dip below expenditures beginning this fiscal year.

Because of the passage of Amendment 1 and other revenue cutting measures, local governments will be taking in less revenue and will have to cut services, fire employees, or raise fees in order to make up the difference.

Three weeks ago, Mayor Iorio said the city had to make up a $16-million budget gap and proposed saving some money in the general fund by transferring a division called Clean City from the general fund budget to the Solid Waste Enterprise fund. Enterprise funds operate much like a not-for-profit stand-alone business: they receive no ad velorum tax money but instead raise revenues by establishing fees and rates. Such a move would make it possible to preserve as many as 70 city jobs that would otherwise have to be eliminated, according to Iorio.

But transferring the Clean City Division to the Solid Waste Enterprise fund would mean an increase in the fees that residents pay to have their garbage picked up. Currently, the average rate is $25.25 per month. If the Solid Waste Department took in the Clean City Division, it would require an increase of $1.80 per month in 2009 and another $2.20 per month in 2010, in addition to smaller increases in the following years to keep up with rising operating costs, according to Bonnie Wise, the city’s director of revenue and finance.

By 2013, fees would increase to $31, $5.75 more than customers pay now. In the event the Clean City Division is not moved to the Solid Waste Department, fees would still need to be raised by $3.50 per month by 2013, according to Wise.

Iorio said that the city would save $3.6-million from the general fund by switching the Clean City Division to the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund. Council Member Mary Mulhern suggested saving money and helping the environment by reducing home garbage pickup from two days to one day per week.

Steve Daignault said that once-a-week garbage pickup would save residents $1.02 per month on their Solid Waste fees, but Mulhern’s idea was quickly dismissed by some members of the City Council, including Chair Gwen Miller.

Mayor Iorio said the city is not considering once a week solid waste pickup.

Mulhern said she wants to see all the numbers to determine whether there might be a larger savings for reducing the frequency of garbage collection.

The city also proposed studying a volume-based rate for garbage collection. It would offer reduced rates to residents who produce less solid waste. This "pay as you throw” program might give residents the choice of smaller garbage bins for a lower solid waste fee. Mulhern said giving people smaller garbage bins would be motivation for them to produce less solid waste.

Other Enterprise Fund initiatives discussed at the meeting include what is called a non-ferrous agreement. The city already uses a magnet to salvage and sell the iron that residents throw away, but it is exploring a way to sell the non-ferrous metals. Aluminum has increased in value recently and could generate up to $6-million in annual revenue for the city.

The City Council meets tomorrow at 9 a.m. at City Hall.

Learn more:

Previous WMNF coverage of Tampa budget

Clean City Division

City of Tampa

Steve Daignault, Tampa’s Administrator of Public Works and Utility Services

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