The City Council has rejected a proposed $4-a-month garbage collection fee, deciding instead to find other ways of generating $921,000 in needed revenue.
Without the latter amount the city may have to cut other services to compensate for a shortfall in the city's operating budget, which must be finalized before July 1.The garbage collection fee, proposed as one alternative for funding the shortfall, has been discussed for several weeks.
Councilman Claude L. Jones made a motion at a recent meeting to reject the garbage and refuse fee, which, under the most recent proposal, would have been collected for the city through Utah Power & Light Co. bills.
Others voting to reject the garbage fee ordinance, and to "direct the city manager to perform all acts necessary to provide for an increase in the property tax to generate an additional revenue of $921,000," were Gordon W. Evans, Janice Fisher and Gearld L. Wright.
Voting against the motion were Duane R. Moss, Leland L. Delange and Mayor Brent F. Anderson.
"I don't know of any way, other than the property tax, to generate the kind of money we need to keep city services at the same level," Jones said after the meeting.
He thinks there has been confusion in the minds of many people about the proposed fee. He said the problem is the $921,000 shortfall in the city's entire budget, with the garbage fee being just one way to solve the problem.
Jones said he and many other people are reluctant to increase property taxes, but that that might be necessary.
City Manager John Newman has said that options for the city were to establish a fee, have no fee, increase property taxes or reduce city services. Some observers have indicated that reductions could affect fire department and police assistance.
The cost of present garbage collection services through Reliable Waste Systems are paid out of the city's general fund. At a recent public hearing the council heard comment about the proposed $4 fee and how it would be collected.
About eight people spoke against the fee, and some five individuals spoke in favor of the fee. Some people spoke against the fee but for a property tax increase. Most of those speaking against the fee are senior citizens.
Reliable Waste now picks up garbage from single-family residences and duplexes, but doesn't pick up refuse from businesses or apartment buildings. One issue raised at the hearing is that businesses are subsidizing the cost of garbage collection yet have to contract for their own collection.
Delange reasoned that the fee is a fair way of paying for a service. He said the city has never had to ask citizens for more revenue, "but we are in a situation where we cannot continue (present) service levels and stay within our budget. I'm concerned that even a $4 fee for garbage would not be enough to even consider improvements within the city."
Fisher said she strongly objects to a garbage collection fee and to having it attached to UP&L bills. "Our job is to re-examine the budget. We have to come up with some alternative funding source for the city to make up the $921,000 shortfall." She believes costs for the city's fleet of vehicles are one area that could be examined.
"I'm not saying there are any problems," she stressed after the session.
She told the council that a $4 fee amounts "to big bucks for a lot of families in this city."
Delange said during the meeting that he would prefer the city set up its own billing system for the garbage fee, but he said that would cost more than having the utility company collect the funds. If the city collected the money the fee would have to be increased, he said.
Anderson said the council and its staff have studied and restudied the matter, and "that is the least expensive way."
Earlier in the meeting the council voted 4-3 that it would continue studying the matter at its next study session, now scheduled for 6 p.m. May 17. But that was not part of the final motion approved.
Evans said he can't support further delays in making a decision.
Newman said he was concerned that he and his staff not be "left in a cloud as to what the council wants to do."