Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fallacies surrounding the 'privatization' of Toledo trash service

Let's get this perfectly clear - Toledo is not 'privatizing' its trash service even if it decides to go with a contract with the county which would contract with a private company to do the collection.

True privatization would not have government involved at all.

The local paper's take on the matter, which actually supports the proposal currently before council, is that the city 'subsidizes' the trash service:

"Most Toledo residents who recycle pay the city $8.50 a month to collect their refuse. Senior households that are eligible for homestead-exemption discounts pay $5 a month. These fees do not cover the $16.5 million annual cost of trash collection; the city pays about $7.5 million a year to subsidize the service.

That expense has become harder to bear during the recession. It has required the city to shift money to its general fund from its capital budget, restricting the city's ability to fix streets and make long-term infrastructure improvements."

First, all tax dollars go to support city services and the trash tax referenced goes into the general fund - not a fund dedicated to paying just for the service. This means the trash 'fee' is actually a 'tax' to be used for anything council decides and not just for the collection of garbage.

Second, our 'temporary' (since the 1980s) 3/4% payroll income tax was supposed to be going to provide this service. Now, in addition to our taxes and our fee, the city still needs more money - not just for trash - but overall. If council had eliminated spending in other areas, it would have the money for this 'service' which many believe is a proper function of government.

Lastly, the editorial board seems to think that council had 'no other option' but to steal from the Capital Improvements Fund in order to meet it's annually general fund operational expenses. Nothing could be further than the truth. Council could have made tough choices in the past to STOP SPENDING, but that's not what they did.

My take on such things is that if you can look in the Yellow Pages and find companies who do a function, there is no need for government to do it as well. But if we're going to 'privatize' our trash, why don't we just go all the way instead of contracting with another governmental entity (Lucas County), which will then assign it to a different governmental entity (the Lucas County Solid Waste District) which will then issue a contract for a private company to do the work?

In the suburban communities, the property owner contracts for the services directly and it seems to work just fine. Despite the naysayers who want to claim that *some* Toledo residents aren't responsible enough to do this kind of thing on their own, I believe that it could work as well inside the city limits as it does elsewhere.

After all, if going with a private supplier is *good*, wouldn't eliminating all the middle men be even *better*???

The problem isn't our trash service or even how much it's costing. The problem is the overall costs of government relative to the amount of revenue they receive. Government spends more than it takes in, and Toledo is no exception, as our years of deficits clearly demonstrate.

No matter what plan the Council goes with, we will still be paying - one way or the other. Don't get me wrong - we should, each of us, pay for our garbage service. But if I'm going to pay, why don't I get to choose how I will do so, with the ability to not pay government if I opt for a private supplier who will give me a fee based upon my usage of the service?

Sadly, that's using logic and reason and we don't seem to do that here. Instead, the thinking that got us into this position in the first place will continue to permeate our area - until there's no one left.

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