Proposals for a new garbage collection fee and a power bill rebate for senior citizens will be two of the more interesting entrees on the City Council's plate in coming weeks as that body prepares its $20.76 million financial menu for fiscal 1999.
And it doesn't take Chef Pierre to figure it's the garbage collection fee - a first for Murray city residents - that is likely to cause the most public indigestion.While it doesn't technically qualify as a bigger tax bite, that won't make the prospect of giving the city $8 to $12 more each month any more palatable to people with low or fixed incomes.
The fee shift proposal is pureed into the $20.76 million preliminary budget Mayor Dan Snarr served up for City Council consideration.
Snarr is calling for a $1.46 million increase in municipal spending over the current fiscal year, an increase of 7.5 percent. He also recommends a 1.1 percent pay adjustment for city workers.
The mayor's budget plan is being digested by the City Council's budget committee, and it is the council that will have the final say about city spending.
Councilman Gary Ferrero, who heads the committee, said the mayor's plan to charge fees for garbage pickup and curbside recycling will be debated in May when the committee examines public works spending.
Garbage pickup in Murray traditionally has been covered by the general fund, although the city did assess a fee for garbage-can rental when Murray switched to its current system of trash collection.
Snarr's budget deletes the $536,000 expense from the general fund, shifting it to the city's solid waste enterprise fund where it would have to be offset by new collection fees.
The actual fees, if accepted, have yet to be determined, but early projections indicate residents may be asked to pay between $8 and $12 a month for collection and recycling.
Snarr concedes his plan may be a bit hard to swallow for some residents. But he's also adamant that it's time for garbage collection to pay its own way.
That fee shift would free up about a half million dollars annually to help the city meet other pressing needs, he noted.
"In my opinion, enterprise funds are supposed to be self-supporting," the mayor said. "Murray is the only city I can find that doesn't charge a fee for collecting garbage.
"I know I'll get beat up on this," he added, "but sometimes you just have to step up to the plate."
Councilman John Rush served notice at the April 7 council meeting that he's skeptical about assessing a garbage fee.
One of the things that makes Murray different is that it hasn't charged for garbage collection, Rush noted. He sees no problem with taking the money from the general fund as long as the city can afford it.
Snarr, on the other hand, said he would like to use that money to improve city roads on a faster schedule and fund the initial planning for a new city recreation center.
Rush issued a budget challenge of his own Tuesday night, asking the mayor to have city staff "run the numbers" and determine the financial impact of a 10 percent annual rebate on senior citizens' power bills.
"There's no shortage of money in the power department," the councilman said. "If we have an opportunity to reduce the power bills of our senior citizens, we should do that."
For the purposes of the rebate, senior citizens would be defined as anyone at least 62 years old.
Rush said he got the idea from Councilman Wendell Coombs during a recent council debate on whether to provide a senior citizen discount on Murray's golf course.
That discount was rejected on a 3-2 vote, with Coombs suggesting the city would do better to offer something such as a power-bill discount, which would benefit a larger portion of Murray's senior citizen population.
Other key expenditures in the mayor's proposed budget include:
- $1.2 million to buy right of way and construct a new road through the 141-acre Murray smelter site, tying together Vine Street and 5300 South.
- $850,000 to cover the balance of the city's share of a new $1.7 million aquatic center under construction at Murray City Park. The county is contributing $700,000 toward the project.
- $750,000 from the power fund to pay for phases I and II of a program to convert all city communications systems to fiber optics.
- $560,000 to pay for architectural drawings and the cost of issuing bonds for a new community recreation center.
- $250,000 from the water fund to provide mains and lines for the development of the smelter site.
- $161,000 from the parkway fund to cover Nature Center landscaping costs.
- An additional $1.2 million for assorted road construction, drainage and maintenance projects at eight different city locations.