I've been thinking about this for a while now, but particularly in regard to the City's budget deficit and the proposed "trash fee."
Currently, Toledo has a 3/4% TEMPORARY payroll tax...I say temporary because that's the way it was originally advertised for the first vote in 1981. It's since been renewed at every opportunity. It's supposed to cover police, fire and trash services.
All of us recognize that the money this temporary tax originally generated in 1981 is not enough to cover costs today. However, the reality is that wages are higher today than they were 25 years ago, so the tax should generate more funds. Except in Toledo where it's possible (I don't have specific numbers) that our total employment is not as high as it was then.
But Toledoans take exception to the "temporary" portion of this description, despite the fact that they've had the opportunity to vote on this 'temporary' tax. They keep asking why it continues to appear on the ballot when it was supposed to be 'temporary.' While "confusion" over this phrasing may be a strong way to describe it, the feeling leads to emotions from angst to anger.
Today, the mayor and council are talking about instituting a $6 'trash fee' because we have the "Cadillac of trash services" - unlimited pickup including large items like furniture, etc. However, no one has said if this $6 will be dedicated to the refuse department and be used solely for trash collection.
And this is where I think the words 'trash fee' will lead to confusion. Our city leaders, I predict, will impose some sort of additional fee and call it a "trash fee." This would be easier than making the tough decisions to truly curtail government spending.
But the 'trash fee' won't be dedicated to refuse collection. Nor will they redirect general fund monies from refuse to other line items. This 'trash fee' will go directly into the general fund to be used for multiple purposes - primarily to help eliminate the $11 million deficit. And it will work, maybe...but only for 2007.
Some projections of the deficit for 2008 have been as high as $17 million. Even if the mayor and council present a balanced budget for 2007, they're looking at up to another $6 million they'd have to find for 2008 - either in further cuts or in additional revenue. And, I believe, trash pickup will again be the topic.
And when they start on THAT process, the confusion over the $6 'trash fee' and what it was intended to do will come back to haunt them.