Garbage Fee Proposal Irks Some Waukesha Aldermen
Finance Committee begins review of the proposed 2012 budget that includes no property tax increase.
Hours after Mayor Jeff Scrima told Waukesha Patch he would not recommend cutting the budget any farther than already proposed, at least two aldermen gave a strong message that they did not like the garbage fee that is included in the budget.
Alderman Andy Reiland told the other Finance Committee members that he felt the budget was incomplete during the committee's meeting Tuesday night.
“We need to make some further cuts,” said Reiland, who does not support a garbage fee.
“I think we need to as a committee discuss what our position is going to be on this proposal, because that is what this whole budget is based on,” said Reiland about the garbage fee. “I want to know if I am standing by myself on this or if other members of the committee have the same idea as where we stand on this.”
Interim City Administrator Steve Crandell agreed that the Finance Committee and Common Council should come to a consensus on the garbage fee and requested that the committee do so during the meeting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 20. City staff would need to make budget adjustments if the council does not agree with a garbage fee.
The $125,123,000 total budget includes a 2.43 percent spending decrease compared to last year. The $56.2 million general fund operating budget decreased 1.19 percent compared to the $57.9 million budgeted in 2011. The proposed budget includes a $51.4 million tax levy, which is the same as the tax levy for the 2011 budget.
The city eliminated $3.6 million from its budget due to reductions in state aid. To offset the decrease, officials proposed a garbage, recycling and large-item disposal fee in the budget, which is projected to cost residents $136 a year. The proposed garbage fees, which already exist in Oconomowoc, Menomonee Falls and Pewaukee, saves $2.7 million from the budget.
“If not, we have a considerable amount of work to do,” said Crandell about presenting a balanced budget.
Alderman Duane Paulson also made it clear he did not support the $136 garbage fee that is being proposed for property owners that use the service.
“They only see one figure and that is the amount,” Paulson said. “… It misrepresents what we are actually paying in taxes.”
The garbage fee is being proposed to remove $2.7 million from the city’s 2012 operating budget. A $136 fee is being proposed for property owners who use the city garbage service. Scrima touted it Tuesday afternoon in an interview with Waukesha Patch as a way to equalize the tax bill
Alderman Paul Ybarra asked that when the garbage fee is placed on the Finance Committee’s agenda as a single discussion item during the Oct. 20 meeting.
“I would like as much attention and input as we can from the residents of the city,” Ybarra said.
Scrima said before Tuesday's Finance Commitee meeting that the garbage fee would create equity among property owners as some people in condo associations have to pay twice for garbage pickup.
"That is fair, they are the only ones that use that city service, therefore they would be the only ones paying for it," Scrima said.
While Scrima said that homeowners would not be able to opt out of the garbage fee, Crandell said that's a policy decision that would have to be made by the Common Council. City staff is recommending that property owners not be able to opt out of trash collection, Crandell said.
Scrima hopes that the program could advance during the upcoming years.
"My hope is that the following would lead to a pay-as-you throw program," Scrima said. "… Essentially what that would be for those remaining property owners that are using the city service, they would be charged a fee only on the garbage they produce and they would receive a credit based on the amount of material they recycle."
Scrima said that by including the garbage fee, which takes refuse off the tax rolls, it was able to leave several items in the budget that could have seen the chopping block. Those items are:
- Purchasing a new ambulance
- Restoring a police officer position
- Reorganizing the parks and recreation staff for cost savings, efficiency and better service
- Restoring a housing inspector position (due to citizen feedback on code enforcement)
- Adding two hot boxes for better pothole repair and smoother roads
"We feel that is one of the most important areas of the city and that is why we are restoring that position," said Scrima, adding that all of the above item are important to include in the budget.
Scrima noted that in the year and a half since he has been in office that he has gotten to know the city staff members and has learned that "overall our departments are running extremely efficiently."
"My recommendation is to not cut anything further," Scrima said.
A complete document from Scrima that was written to the Common Council on Tuesday outlining his views on the budget and the garbage fee is attached to this article.
For more information on the city's budget: