Waukesha Budget: Garbage Fees Help Avoid Tax Increase

The proposed garbage fee would save $2.7 million in taxes, but is expected to cost residents $136 per year.

For the second year in a row, the is introducing a budget that keeps city property taxes flat while the overall budget is decreasing.

City officials released the proposed 2012 budget on Friday. The $125,123,000 spending plan 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 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.

The proposed fee allowed the city to avoid deeper cuts, said Interim City Administrator Steve Crandell in a memo to the Common Council and city department heads. 

“This was done to promote equity among the various property owners, (condominium, commercial and residential) and to preserve core city services,” he wrote. 

However, cuts are proposed in the 2012 budget. They include: 

  • Unfunded vacant positions; $223,000
  • Two police vehicles; $55,800
  • Asphalt grinder; $136,000
  • Borrowing for a Parks & Recreation vehicle; $26,000

The overall budget includes a request of $4.99 million in borrowing while $9.78 million in property taxes is going toward the city's general debt fund. The capital improvement plan includes infrastructure repairs for sewer and streets. It also includes a roof replacement and improvements at the city garage and improvements to the police department and parks. Information technology requests are also included to address aging equipment and software, Crandell said in a memo.

“The mayor, Council and Finance Committee have been clear about its desire to minimize the tax impact on Waukesha residents,” said Crandell in his budget memo. “Under this direction, and in appreciation of the financial challenges Waukesha citizens and businesses face, the 2011 levy needed to support the 2012 executive budget is proposed to remain flat at $51,405,434, for the second year in a row. Therefore, there would be no change for the average homeowner as a result of the city’s proposed budget.”

Mayor Jeff Scrima, in a memo to the Common Council and citizens, said that the city’s executive leadership team is proud of the work that was done for the budget proposal.

“We understand the struggles our citizens and city employees face,” Scrima said. “Putting together this proposal was time consuming, complex and required flexibility. Under this proposal the average homeowner will see the same, and in some cases better, level of city services and not see an increase in the city portion of their tax bill.

The Finance Committee will begin its review of the budget during its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. A Common Council meeting is schedule from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 1 before the regularly scheduled meeting to review the Capital Improvement Plan and five-year plan. The council will review the 21012 budget at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 and will meet at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 for a budget hearing and adoption.

Dustin Block October 07, 2011 at 10:23 PM
Cities throughout Wisconsin are using fees - like the proposed garbage fee - to offset budget increases. No judgment there, but the state encourages municipalities to use fees to work around the Expenditure Restraint Program.
clearthinker October 07, 2011 at 11:05 PM
If Waukesha starts to impose fees for this and that,then they will be following the lead of their very best friends in MILWAUKEE! Waukesha citizens, did you move out here to be treated just like the poor saps that are trapped in Milwaukee. I say find another way and no to fees!!!
clearthinker October 07, 2011 at 11:28 PM
Refuse collection is one of the core services provided by government. If you get squishy soft on this then I can guarantee that you will "enjoy" the snow removal fees, the leaf collection fees, the fire protection fees, the police protection fees, the road repair fees, etc, etc, etc that will follow. This is a slippery slope that professional bureaucrats love and week minded alderpersons can't seem to resist!
James W Smith October 08, 2011 at 12:39 AM
Since commercial and condo owners pay the same taxes and to have pay privately for garbage, it's only fair that garbage is removed from the general taxes. Many communities already do this. And great job on the 0% levy two years in a row!
Reason Together October 08, 2011 at 01:01 AM
Many communities around us such as Oconomowoc, Menomonee Falls, and Pewaukee have been charging garbage fees for many years. Other communities around the state have separate fees such as Appleton, Beloit and Greenfield and many communities such as Eau Claire and New Berlin provide no trash service at all. Seems as though some people like "the antipowell" like to project negative things into the future, promote unfairness, scare people, and will never be happy. This budget seems fair, reasonable, is a whole lot better than we had a few years ago, and with this 0% levy will set us up for a promising future. 
Dustin Block October 08, 2011 at 01:50 PM
We just added a poll to get a sense of where people stand on the proposed garbage fee.
Samantha Johnson October 08, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Some of the comments above, including the wording of the survey attached to this article, speak to what’s wrong with this country. The right is pulling further right, the left is pulling further left, the media is just trying to make a buck, and very few people want to compromise and find middle ground. To Sarah Millard’s credit, she did write a relatively fair article. This proposed budget in Waukesha does seem to strike a compromise… “a 2.43 percent spending decrease compared to last year… The city eliminated $3.6 million from its budget… cuts are proposed in the 2012 budget. They include: unfunded vacant positions; $223,000; two police vehicles; $55,800; asphalt grinder; $136,000; borrowing for a Parks & Recreation vehicle; $26,000…” Separating the garbage fee from the tax bill is reasonable as now, for the first time in Waukesha, only the properties classes that use this service in will pay for it. This is fair. I personally do not mind paying this fee. I am proud to live in a city that promotes fairness, value and a good quality of life. Now I’m going to go for walk one of Waukesha’s beautiful parks, visit our award winning library and spend time with my grandchildren.
Sarah Wonderiling October 08, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Pure and simple, this is a tax increase. It sucks.
Don Burtrom October 08, 2011 at 05:26 PM
Removing trash from the taxes and only charging those properties who use this city service is fair, plain and simple. The 0% levy is great, as it establishes a conservative baseline for the 2013 budget. Perhaps the Patch should change their survey question to "Do you support the city cutting services?"
the 'sha guy October 08, 2011 at 05:41 PM
Would a homeowner be forced to use the garbage service and pay the fee, or could they opt out if there are other means to dispose of their own garbage? If you can not opt out than this is a tax, plain and simple. For anyone to claim otherwise is simply foolish and they are hoping the public is too dumb to notice.
Skirnir Hamilton October 08, 2011 at 08:56 PM
I am also curious if we are charged for a garbage fee relative to how much garbage we produce? I mean, it could be a good way to encourage recycling, and to not penalize those of us who have very little garbage. Of course, I wonder how much the recycling collected went down with the every other week recycling pickup.
clearthinker October 08, 2011 at 11:24 PM
I ask all of you lovers of the proposed garbage tax to come in from the park and stop singing kumbaya long enough to consider this proposal for a new "users fee". In the spirit of fairness and so that everyone pays their fair share of the cost of providing services to the entire city I suggest that the city charge a "City Services Fee" against all property that is not currently taxed. The amount of the fee to be the difference between the final spending amount of the budget and the amount of income to the city based on a 0% increase to properties which are currently taxed.
Jenna October 09, 2011 at 12:18 AM
" 'sha guy" and "Skirnir" this is a good idea. Perhaps after the city gets this garbage payment equity among various property types, they could move to a "only pay for what you throw" program, which as you suggest would only charge residents for the garbage they produce and credit them for the materials they recycle. A win for residents that want to save both kinds of green!
Shane October 09, 2011 at 01:17 AM
Regardless whether you think this new user fee is fair or not lets be honest about it, it's still increased costs to the property owner. All property owners will be required to pay the "fee", now opt out. Unlike tax increases the politicians will find it easier to raise the fee down the road without public outcry. Lets not forget that fees are not deductible on our income tax return, so we get hit twice.
James Wigderson October 09, 2011 at 02:44 AM
Since the city has not yet posted the budget memo, will Waukesha Patch?
Paul S October 09, 2011 at 05:43 AM
If our engineering department had changed direction years ago when the incinerator was shut down and commingled the garbage and sewage waste streams, we could have been generating methane and high quality fertilizer years ago. We could have been generating income instead of controversy. FWIW, if we are going down this path, then it makes sense that the fee must be related to the weight of the waste collected. Just put a RFID on the curb at the pickup point, and incorporate a scale on the truck to assess an equitable fee.
alpine5654 October 10, 2011 at 01:57 AM
Why are we adding a user fee to a service almost everyone MUST use? Why not raise the user fees for Waukesha Metro, the pools and other park & rec services to make up the difference? Those would be voluntary fee increases. A forced fee is a tax.
Mark McCullough October 10, 2011 at 03:42 AM
The article claims 2.7 million savings from this fee. $136 per household means they are estimating just under 20k households will pay this fee (number rounded because the estimated savings is clearly rounded). Since the official number of households I see in Waukesha is closer to 25k (The City of Waukesha official website claims nearly 27k in 2000, US Census Bureau claims just over 25k for the same year), this leads me to wonder how they arrived at this number. There are additional details that are needed to understand the numbers presented. Now, it is possible that the number of households has gone up very significantly so that there are now in 2011 nearly 19k non-apartment households. If so, that should be supported by additional details. Right now, I can't make the numbers add up.
James Wigderson October 10, 2011 at 04:30 AM
Hi Mark, a number of those households would include larger residential developments (condos, apartments) such as those developed by the Scrima family that do not use city garbage services even as they use a disproportionately high amount of other city services.
jt October 10, 2011 at 06:56 AM
looks like scotty walkers cuts are not working so good for all you righties in waukeshau! well, he didn't raise taxes, but he screwed you on the garbage by cutting revenue sharing! can't wait to see how many of you cry now!
jt October 10, 2011 at 07:04 AM
if you don't like it, move! just as walker told public employees, if they don't like his changes, go work somewhere else! next time use your brain when voting wakeshau!
Shane October 10, 2011 at 12:56 PM
Scott Walkers's changes in how government operates where necessary to get spending under control and I support them. Adding this new fee does not reduce cost to the taxpayer, it only adds a new revenue stream to local government which they can and will easily raise when it suits them. I believe they is still plenty of money to be saved by cutting spending on other non-core services.
Mark McCullough October 10, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Maybe I wasn't clear. The reason I couldn't make the numbers add up is that the number is too high for only households that use city garbage collection and too low for all households based on my uninformed understanding. Unfortunately, I couldn't readily find the numbers on how many households use municipal garbage collection services. The most likely option I can think of to make the numbers fit is that it will be everyone with an opt-out plan and an estimate on how many people will explicitly opt out. But again, this information should be made explicit, not implicit.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something