Some Bloomington residents may soon see significant increases in their garbage collection fees.
But trash fees are set in the city code, separate from the city budget.
As such, upcoming city council decisions on the city’s 2023 budget will not affect garbage collection fees.
Any decision to increase bin fees would come later in the year, in the form of a separate ordinance change enacted by the city council.
And Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton’s proposed 2023 budget assumes no increase in trash collection fees.
The city council could choose not to enact an increase in trash fees, and there would still be enough money in the budget to keep the trash collection service running. Indeed, the proposed budget for 2023 includes approximately $1.4 million in support from the city’s general fund.
Table: Breakdown of the sanitation budget (budget proposal 2023)
|Category||General fund||Solid Waste Fund||Total|
|1 Personnel Department||$0||$1,915,269||$1,915,269|
|3 Other services||$1,419,146||$1,186,431||$2,605,577|
It is this general financial support that worries some members of the city council.
This concern is based on a notion of fundamental fairness. Garbage collection service in Bloomington is only available to residential properties of four units or less, which includes single family homes.
But residents of multifamily units also contribute to the general fund, paying rent, which landlords use in part to pay property taxes, which are deposited into the general fund. Residents of multi-family units also contribute to the general fund by paying local income tax.
This means that a portion of the taxpayers’ money contributed to the general fund by residents of multi-family buildings is used to defray the cost of garbage collection service for residents of buildings with four units or less, including single-family homes.
During the departmental budget presentation on September 1, councilman Matt Flaherty put it this way: [general fund support] part of the community to reduce their waste bill while everyone is still paying full market rate for their waste services. So that’s iniquity. »
Flaherty added, “On top of that, the group that gets the discount is disproportionately richer and whiter than Bloomington as a whole.”
Flaherty prefaced his remarks with a historical overview of his efforts to eliminate general fund support for garbage collection: “I spoke with the mayor about this maybe a year or a year and a half ago. And he agreed fairly quickly that it was unfair, that it was a problem.
Support from some council members for an increase in the bin rate, to eliminate general fund support for garbage collection, was cited by the mayor and city staff as the reason the proposal is on the table.
At last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting on Wednesday, council member Jim Sims dismissed the idea that increased bin price increases were in any way “the will of the council”. Sims said, “It’s the will of some of my colleagues – I’ll grant it to you.”
At the same meeting, council member Ron Smith was clear in his opposition to the idea of eliminating general fund support for garbage collection. He joked: “So I’m just asking that the mayor reject this idea.”
According to the City of Bloomington’s code, private waste haulers cannot collect waste from residential buildings of four units or less. And according to Public Works Director Adam Wason, a Bloomington resident can’t opt out of the city’s garbage collection — he’ll be charged the amount for the smallest size cart, if he doesn’t opt out. one of three sizes.
What would be the increase needed to eliminate support from the general fund? The idea is to spread the increases over a period of three years. During his department’s budget presentation in early September, Wason proposed the following for a Year 1 increase for the three different cart sizes:
- 35 gallon: increase from $6.51 to $9.75 (50% more)
- 64 gallon: increase from $11.61 to $18.25 (57% more)
- 96 gallon: increase from $18.52 to $31.50 (70% more)
The city does not charge for recycling carts. The city uses separate trucks to collect recycling and garbage.
In response to an emailed question to B Square, Wason said the cost of the recycling service is part of the total cost that the city is seeking to make independent of general fund support.
Recycling collection is a service that residents of multi-family buildings generally do not get from the private waste haulers that service these buildings.
How much does the city’s garbage collection job actually cost? And how does that compare to the cost of the recycling service?
Wason responded to a question from B Square with the following breakdown for garbage and recycling collection:
Table: Actual 2021 costs for recycling and garbage collection
|Category||To recycle||Trash can||Total|
Garbage collection is more expensive. But the biggest difference is in the lines for the cost of disposal in a landfill, versus paying a processor for recycling materials. This is not surprising, as most of the cost associated with curbside collection of any material is the cost of paying people to do the work and the fuel to run the trucks.
How much revenue does the city currently get from trash fees? According to the dataset from the city’s B Clear data portal, in 2021 the city received $1,529,406 in garbage fee revenue.
At least at first glance, it looks like the revenue from the garbage fee is enough to pay for garbage collection. But that trash revenue won’t cover the recycling service, which in 2021 cost $911,616.
Of course, the cost of recycling service and garbage collection services are related. The cost of garbage collection is currently lower than it would be without the recycling service.
Based on city data, in 2021 Bloomington paid $93,603 to process 3,629.73 tons of single-stream recycling materials. And Bloomington paid $360,471 to bury 8,260.53 tons of trash.
At the same rate per ton of landfill, the 3,629.73 tons of single-stream recycling materials in 2021 would have cost $158,393 instead of $93,603, or $64,790 more.
Beyond the cost of disposal, there would be additional costs associated with garbage collection, if only a garbage collection service were offered, with no recycling service. For example, due to the greater volume of trash (materials that residents would otherwise have recycled), trucks would fill up faster, so it would take longer to travel a trash collection route than it currently does.
How would the total cost of garbage collection plus recycling service compare to that of garbage collection, if no recycling service was offered?
Responding to an emailed question from The B Square, Wason wrote: “It’s not easily noticeable given all the factors involved.”