Bad Government, Sneaky Taxes, and Garbage

This coming Monday, December 14, the Tiverton Town Council will (hopefully) be hearing from residents concerning a proposed “pay as you throw” program for garbage pickup. The nutshell background is that (despite regular and significant annual tax increases) the town has not been putting aside adequate resources to close the landfill when it runs out in five or so years, and it’s going to have to come up with around $4 million one way or another.
The proposed solution is to charge residents for the garbage bags that they may use — $1 for a small bag (15 gallons) and $2 for a large bag (33 gallons). With an extremely conservative estimate of one bag per household per week (my household will probably burn through two or three large bags on an average week), the Landfill Committee is estimating gross revenue of $520,000.
The catch is that, even if we go with that ludicrously low number, the cost of garbage pickup to residents will pretty much be doubling, because the budget line item for “rubbish/recycling collection” currently runs us $573,601. The new bag fees would amount to a massive tax increase that isn’t subject to the tax cap. Worse still, families (like mine) that cannot afford another regular household expense and opt, instead, to lose weekend time going to the dump, will end up subsidizing the trash pickup of those who are better off, because we’ll still be paying the initial taxes.
Personally, I’d support ending curbside pickup altogether. That’s not politically feasible, though, so if the town council goes forward with this proposal, it should allow households to “opt out” and receive a refund of that portion of their property taxes that support rubbish collection (around $105, on average).

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Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Two points:
What I find most annoying about the landfill is they only accept 1&2 recycling types. Everything else is trash. We’d have so much less trash if they could take all of them.
Second, be really careful about:
“it should allow households to “opt out” and receive a refund of that portion of their property taxes”
That’s a slippery slope. I don’t use the senior center, so should I get a tax break on that? I don’t use the public schools, should I get a tax break on that? And there is a benefit to me for my neighbors to have trash pickup. It keeps them from simply creating their own landfill somewhere in their yard, whether legally or otherwise.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

I’m surprised that the town didn’t simultaneously propose a reduction in property taxes that offsets the fee so that the net effect is neutral.
Of course, one can’t expect government to do the honest thing.
Fee for service based on the amount of trash seems to make more sense than lumping it into the town budget. This way frugal residents will not be subsidizing the hogs, and there is a natural incentive to reduce the amount of trash generated.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

“That’s a slippery slope. I don’t use the senior center, so should I get a tax break on that?”
Yes.
“I don’t use the public schools, should I get a tax break on that?”
Yes.
Coercing people to pay for the services you consume is theft. After that it’s just a matter of degree.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Patrick,
Several differences occur to me, but the most significant one is that you don’t use the senior center because you don’t require its services. You don’t use the public schools because you don’t have children. You do have to dispose of your garbage. Indeed, the situation currently is the same for garbage pickup as for the other services that you list: if for some reason, you don’t have a need to dispose of trash, then you pay for a service that you do not use.
My main complaint against the town, in this instance, is that their failure to plan has put them in a situation in which it’s easiest to double residents’ cost of disposing of garbage. What they’ll be doing, in a phrase, is making me pay for a service that I can’t afford to use even though I’m paying for it… and in a way that skirts the tax-cap law, so any increase that they manage to procure through the budgeting process and the financial town meeting will be on top of this increase in fees.
The parallel would be if you opted not to send your children to the public schools and home-school instead, and far from giving you a voucher or resources, the town requires you to buy text books through the schools. Imagine, similarly, if the town began to charge you for doing something, on your own that they also do at the senior center.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

Trash bag fees are charged in several nearby Mass. communities. As this becoems seen as “profit center”, we can expect more.
I have fond memories of the “town dump”. The chief drawback was politicians glad handing on Saturday mornings.

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