By Kevin Kelley
City Council members unanimously approved a continuation for two more years of the $10 monthly trash fee charged to residents.
The vote, taken at a council meeting Sept. 5, extends the trash fee through 2015.
The fee was implemented by council in April 2010 at the request of the administration of Mayor Eileen Patton due to a budget crisis. Many of the economic challenges that necessitated the fee are still around, Patton said. For example, she noted that the estate tax, which once brought an average of $400,000 per year to the city’s coffers, was eliminated by the state Legislature as of Jan. 1. Fairview Park once received about three-quarters of a million dollars from the state’s local government fund, Patton noted. But that figure has dwindled to around $260,000, she said. In addition to the weak economy, the closure of the former NASA buildings on Brookpark Road has resulted in less income tax, the mayor added.
Patton told West Life she appreciates residents’ payment of the trash fee. Without the fee, she said, the city would have been forced to reduce positions in the police and fire departments.
The fee, which generates about $670,000 annually, does not pay for all the costs of trash collection by Republic Services, the city’s contractor, Patton noted. The city subsidizes the trash collection to the tune of about $200,000 each year, she explained.
Patton said it’s the goal of her administration to reduce or eliminate the fee. That would require the city to build a significant budget surplus over several years, she acknowledged. For that to happen, several projects now in the works in the city, such as construction of the nursing home across from City Hall and redevelopment of the former NASA buildings, would need to be completed and generate a significant amount of tax revenue for several years, she said.
The mayor noted that the renewal of the trash fee expires, or “sunsets,” at the end of 2015, and would have to be approved again by council for it to be extended.
“I think it’s very important that we keep that sunset in there,” she said.
The $10 trash collection fee appears on homeowners’ property tax bills in January. Residents can pay the annual collection fee of $120 all at once, or they can pay half of it in two installments.