And there is still a lawsuit over this very issue, which makes for interesting reading. The city claimed it wasn't a tax and it was implemented properly, but when the suit asked for class-action status, the city claimed it was a tax so class-action wasn't allowable.
I know - but this is Toledo.
An increase in the tax has been on the table for a while now, pushed by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner as a way to balance the budget which is still facing an $8 million deficit.
According to the ordinance that was on council's agenda last night:
City Council enacted Ordinance No. 91-08 amending the refuse collection fees for three years beginning May 1, 2008. The legislation provided for yearly decreases in the rates paid by citizens who committed to recycling to encourage an increased level of recycling in the city. In May 2009, the recycling rate dropped to $1.00 per month and beginning in May 2010, the rate will be $0.00. Recycling levels have now increased to fifty percent and continue to rise due to greater environmental awareness and the pilot automation project that has been rolled out in parts of the city. For these reasons, there is no longer a need to reduce the rates to encourage recycling. In addition, it is necessary to provide an increase in both the non-recycling and the recycling rates to recover a greater percentage of refuse and recycling collection costs. This ordinance amends the current monthly refuse collection fees from $8.50 non-recycling and $1.00 recycling to $10.00 non-recycling and $7.00 recycling and authorizes the establishment of a recycling rewards program to begin January 1, 2010 with the new automated refuse collection system.
How convenient for the city that they no longer need to encourage recycling because of the participation. But isn't that always the case with these types of programs? They implement a 'revenue source' based upon penalizing a type of behavior. Then, when the behavior modifies and the revenue declines, they need to expand to meet the budgeted amounts. They do this with red-light and speed cameras and now with the trash tax. The real solution, however, is for the city to reduce spending and live within their (actually OUR) means - not forever attempt to increase the means, but that's another matter entirely.
Of course, this proposal would have really stuck it to the people who recycle. As I've previously pointed out, passage of this ordinance would have meant an 18% fee increase for people who don't recycle, but a 600% increase for those who do. It was the equivalent of a 3.91 mill levy, 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.
It also would have included some sort of bribe in the form of 'coupons' for local businesses - as if that would somehow make $120 per year more palatable. Yeah - right!
Council President Joe McNamara wanted to delay the vote on this issue because Councilman Frank Szollosi was not present. Thankfully, Councilman D. Michael Collins (also a candidate for mayor) objected and called for the vote.
Tom Waniewski, Lindsay Webb, Mike Ashford, Collins, Mike Craig and Betty Shultz voted no. Wilma Brown, Phil Copeland, McNamara, George Sarantou and Steve Steel voted yes.
So the ordinance failed.
Surprisingly, Republican George Sarantou who is also up for election this year, voted yes to raise 'taxes' on Toledoans. Webb, who made a campaign promise not to vote to increase the fees, has consistently voted against such proposals and should be commended for keeping her promise to her district.
The still unanswered question, however, revolves around the lawsuit. If Karen Shanahan and her attorneys prevail and this becomes a class-action, and the city then loses the case, the monies collected may have to be returned, in addition to eliminating that source of revenue to the city. As far as I can tell, no one in the administration nor on council has addressed what happens then.
But not to worry...I'm sure they'll come up with some other 'revenue enhancement' scheme if that's the case.