Thursday, August 06, 2009

Groceries for garbage-or let me bribe you into liking higher taxes

The City of Toledo has, for about a year now, been considering Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's request to increase the trash tax (recycling fee as they like to call it, as if that name makes it sounds better). Under the proposal, people who don't recycle with their garbage will be charged $10/month and those who do recycle will be charged $7/month.

Currently, those who don't recycle are charged $8.50, so the increase is 18%. If you are already 'helping the city save the planet and their landfill,' you're paying $1/month, so your increase is 600%. So why are the people who've been supportive of recycling being penalized by a larger increase than those who don't bother to sort out their paper, plastic and cans?

But here's something to think about when they tell you 'it's only...'

At $10 per month, that'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.

And now, to further obfuscate what's really going on, they want to bribe you with coupons.

You see, if you're getting coupons, you won't mind the tax.

Councilmen Joe McNamara and Steven Steel think offering coupons makes the tax 'more palatable' because the coupons are worth more than the increase. And then it's an 'incentive' ... but I thought the lower tax if you recycled was the incentive. And I'll tell you, $1/month versus $8.50/month is a nice 'incentive.'

Under the program offered by RecycleBank, you get points based upon the weight of the amount of recyclables (currently 2.5 points for each pound collected) which can be redeemed when you order rewards.

From their website:

"We track this weight with the help of a Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) chip embedded into your family’s recycling cart. This RFID chip is connected to your individual account identification code.

Each week, when your recycling is collected, these “smart carts” complete with a chip are scanned and weighed right at your curb. The system records the weight, converts it to points, and credits that amount directly to your account. You can then redeem those points for discounts and rewards at hundreds of participating businesses."

RecycleBank gives some examples of the coupons: $2 off a purchase of $5 or more at one vendor or '1 free YoBaby Organic Yogurt' at another. A search of reward partners in multiple Toledo zip codes showed only three vendors: Golden Chopstick, Half Price Books and Olga's Kitchen.

Now, it's likely that if RecycleBank got the contract with the city, they'd find more reward partners in the area, but how many of them would you actually use?

And are coupons - which you can get in any number of locations from papers to internet - enough to get you to overlook the severity of the tax increase? Remember, this is the equivalent of a 2- or 3-mill levy!

But wait, there's more!

You don't have to wait for the city in order to participate in RecycleBank. You can create an account and start earning points right away! I did so, in order to get a better idea of exactly how the program works. They asked me all kinds of routine questions (name, address, phone, email) which I answered, and other details (like the number of people in my home, and whether or not I have kids or grandkids) which I didn't.

Upon registering, I earned 40 points - so I immediately went to the 'rewards' to see what I might be able to get:

* for 1225 points, I could get $10 off at AMC Entertainment (I'd have to generate 490 pounds of trash to accumulate that many points)
* for 100 points, I could get $10 off a purchase of $30 or more at Bed Bath & Beyond
* for 30 points, I could get $2 off any non-lip item from Burt's Bees (but those were temporarily out of stock)
* for 100 points, I could get $1 off any 1 package of Capri Sun
* for 40 points, I could get $4 off $20 purchase at CVS/pharmacy
* for 75 points, I could buy 2 get 2 cans of Mighty Dog (if I had a dog)
* for 70 points, I could get $7 off a $70 online purchase at

By far the most options for use of the points were to make donations to charitable organizations.

This is not a good deal. It would take most people 'tons' of garbage to earn the points to offset the increased tax.


Now, this doesn't even get to the point that the trash tax isn't even for the garbage collection - it's going directly into the general fund to be used to offset the general expenses of the city.

Of course, there's been no discussion of the lawsuit filed over this 'fee' either. What happens if the city loses the lawsuit and has to stop collecting the tax, or if they are ordered to return what they collected from all the people who have protested the issue? Then what?

City council members don't want you to think about those things. They'd rather distract you with the promise of coupons...

We're not that dumb.

1 comment:

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...


"We're not that dumb."

Correct, but we can't say the same for those on City Council..., unfortunately.

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