Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, as part of his solution for the budget deficit, wants to increase taxes.
Among other things, he has asked council to raise the monthly refuse fee (aka: garbage tax) from $7 to $10 for people who do not recycle and from $2 to $7 for those who do. He says this would raise about $1.6 million.
I have several concerns about this proposal - aside from the fact that raising taxes is rarely the best solution.
First, the administration has not addressed, at least publicly, how they arrived at the $1.6 million. Did they assume that all people who currently pay the $7 would continue to refuse to recycle, or did they estimate a percentage of people might begin to recycle in order to keep their monthly payment the same?
Second, the increases in costs for the two groups are not the same. The $5 increase for those who are recycling (and helping the city maximize and prolong the use of the landfill) is 250%. The $3 increase for those who don't recycle is only 43%.
Why the disparity? Is it because they think that people will revolt if asked to pay more than $10 per month for this tax?
Third, and perhaps the most important one, is understanding the true cost of the 'refuse fee.' How do we compare this unvoted tax in order to understand just how much we're really paying?
At $10 per month, it's $120 per year - the equivalent of a 3.91 mill levy. At $7 per month, it's $84 per year - the equivalent of of 2.74 mill levy.
(A 1-mill levy raises about $30.62 per year when applied to a home valued at $100,000. Of course, as this is not a percentage but a flat fee, the costs are disproportionally higher for lower valued properties.)
That's more than we pay in total for the two permanent improvement levies for Toledo Public Schools - or about what we pay for the Port Authority levy, 911 levy, Senior Services levy, MetroParks land levy, and the COSI levy COMBINED.
If the City of Toledo asked you to approve a 2- or 3-mill levy, how would you vote? But if they call it a refuse fee (even though it is clearly a general revenue tax) and add it to your water bill, perhaps you don't realize just how much of a tax it really is.