Tuesday, February 15, 2011

City's trash numbers don't add up

Toledo City Council held a committee meeting yesterday to discuss 'turning over' the city's trash pickup to Lucas County. Dave Welsh, the director of public service, gave the committee information about the income and expenses of the service. According to today's paper (link), here is the report:

Dave Welch, the city's director of public service, said the trash operation costs Toledo $16.5 million annually. A monthly $8.50 trash fee generates about $9 million toward that cost. The rest is paid for with income taxes collected by the city.

"If you want to make this a true enterprise fund that pays for itself, you would have to raise that monthly fee [to] $17.25," Mr. Welch said.

But the city's own budget figures show something else completely. This is the line item for Refuse Fee revenue from the 2011 proposed operating budget:

2008: $ 4,966,035.04
2009: $ 4,700,000.00
2010: $ 13,124,736.84 (budgeted)
2011: $ 8,928,000.00 (proposed)

In addition, there is a line item for Refuse Disposal income:

2008: $ 368,279.39
2009: $ 350,000.00
2010: $ 375,396.80 (budgeted)
2011: $ 651,000.00 (proposed

So if the trash fee only generates $9 million a year, why did the city collect $13 million last year in fees and another $375,400 for individual disposal? If he was referring only to the 2011 proposed/projected collections and only for the garbage tax itself, his statement is understandable. But it's not a complete picture.

Then he says that the trash operation costs the city $16.5 million annually. However, the budget shows the following for expenses:

2008: $ 11,603,270.67
2009: $ 10,192,454.93
2010: $ 7,714,761.53 (budgeted - though it was originally $7,211,259.06)
2011: $ 5,438,208.36 (proposed)

This is a far cry from $16 million.

Is it possible that there are other costs not described in the budget as 'refuse'? I suppose, but when a citizen looks at the budget and adds up anything with 'refuse' or 'waste' in the line item description, they don't total $16 million.

The Bell administration is to be commended for reducing the refuse collection expenses. The cost in 2010 was a 24% decrease from 2009, even though the city did forget to budget additional costs for fuel for having to go up and down each street twice with the automated trucks.

But when council is told the expenses are $16 million, despite the budget showing it's not been anywhere near that amount for at least the last 3 years, questions should be asked.

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