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refuse service

October 27, 2009 - 12:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, refuse service.

More chatter about trash in council chambers last night.

The city continues to wrestle with garbage. Who should pay for its removal and how much?

City Manager Jason Molino, responding to a council request a few weeks ago, presented a report on what 11 other municipalities do, ranging from no garbage pick up to pay-per-bag formulas.

In the end, the council decided, more or less, to have Molino come back with more information. Molino said staff is working on presenting information on models like the one currently employed in Orleans County (per parcel) and a unit-by-unit fee model.

Council President Charlie Mallow asked what's wrong with the current system. Currently, the cost of garbage collection is wrapped into the city's property-tax rate and accounts for about 7 percent of the bill.

One concern, raised by Councilman Sam Barone and others, is that tax-exempt properties (possibly up to 24 percent of parcels in the city) aren't paying for garbage collection, though they benefit from the service.

"I’d like to expand it. I’d like to see leaves picked up," Mallow said. "It seems like a good service now, I don’t see why you would change it. If anything, I hear from elderly people who can’t get rid of their leaves and twigs now. They don’t have a car and have no way to get rid of it."

Mallow also pointed out that by including garbage collection as part of property taxes, the money can be deducted from the homeowner's Federal incomes taxes. Going to a fee-based system would end the tax deduction.

Councilwoman Marriane Clattenburg said she thought the payment method currently in use is fine, but asked Molino to look further into the new system in Auburn. It's like Batavia's, but that city recently added an opt-out/fee system for tax-exempt properties. In Auburn, nonprofits can opt-out of the service, but if they continue to use it, they must pay for it.

She said she was concerned about changes that might lead to higher garbage costs for lower-income families.

“It’s not just the $200,000 house, you also have to think about the million-dollar piece of property," Clattenburg said. "Now you cut their taxes 7 percent, where do you distribute that cost to? Back to the person that’s living in $50,000 house. So to me, that’s the problem with this kind of thing and that’s what I’d be looking at – how that adjusts and how it makes everyone’s cost go up.”

Molino will report back to the council with a narrowed list of alternatives at a future council meeting.

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